Why Does Cancer Risk Increase With Age?

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Why Does Cancer Risk Increase With Age?

It’s completely natural to have health concerns related to growing older. Unfortunately, the downside of aging often includes higher risks of certain diseases after turning 50, including cancer.

The National Cancer Institute reports that nearly half of all cancers occur in Americans 66 and older, with 25% of new diagnoses between ages 65 and 74. These numbers may be alarming, but taking proactive steps in your health and wellness can help.

Dr. Adepero Okulaja makes it easy to stay on top of your health at The Doctor’s House in Edina, Minnesota. She believes optimal health care should be intuitive, low cost, and in the best interest of each patient, and she welcomes people from all walks of life to her practice.

In this blog, Dr. Okulaja explains why cancer risk increases with age and the steps you can take to protect your health at every stage of life.

Cancer basics

In a healthy body, your cells grow and multiply to form new cells when needed. This process, known as cell division, allows a new cell to replace an old or damaged one that dies. 

When you have cancer, something goes wrong with this process. Instead, damaged or abnormal cells grow and multiply out of control when they shouldn’t, causing malignant or benign tumors.

Malignant tumor

If you have a malignant tumor, abnormal cells invade nearby tissue or travel to other parts of your body, forming new tissue. These are often solid tumors, but you can also have cancers that don’t involve masses, such as blood cancer.

Benign cancer

Benign tumors describe abnormal tissue growths that don’t spread. However, they can sometimes grow quite large or cause serious complications, like benign tumors that develop in the brain.

What causes cancer

It’s important to understand that cancer is a type of genetic disease, meaning it’s due to changes to the genes that control cell function, especially cell division. 

Genetic changes that can cause cancer include:

  • DNA damage from harmful environmental substances, like ultraviolet rays or tobacco smoke
  • Errors that occur during cell division
  • Inherited changes from parents

Normally, the body eliminates these cells before they turn cancerous. However, several factors could interfere with this process as you grow older.

Cancer risk and age

People can develop cancer at any age, and some forms are far more common in younger individuals. However, the incidence rates for cancer steadily increase with age, meaning your chances of receiving a diagnosis get higher the older you get. 

Age-related changes

The body goes through numerous changes with advancing age, including those to tissues and organs. This could make the microenvironment in an aging body more favorable to cancer development. 

The immune system also weakens with age, making it less effective at detecting and fighting cancer cells. 

Longer risk exposure

The older a person gets, the longer they’re exposed to potentially harmful substances in the environment, such as:

  • Ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • Environmental chemicals
  • Radiation
  • Substances in foods and beverages

Chronic inflammation in the body can also cause DNA damage, leading to cancer. 

Higher chances of cell mutation

Finally, because a cell can develop a mutation during cell division, your chances of accumulating cell mutations in your system increase the longer you live. 

Protecting your health

You may not be able to stop time, but you can take steps to mitigate your cancer risk and protect your overall health.

To start, Dr. Okulaja recommends taking steps to make lifestyle changes to improve your overall wellness, such as:

  • Increasing your physical activity
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Making good sleep a priority
  • Moderating your alcohol use
  • Quitting smoking

Dr. Okulaja also offers early cancer detection services at The Doctor’s House. These revolutionary multi-cancer early detection tests rely on a simple blood draw performed right in the clinic. This allows Dr. Okulaja to perform routine screenings for numerous forms of cancer and detect them as early as possible — when they typically respond best to treatment.

In addition to early cancer detection testing, Dr. Okulaja provides personalized services to help you achieve total wellness, including anti-aging careinternal medicine, and chronic care. She even has her own line of vitamins and minerals, along with IV hydration treatments.

It’s never too late to take steps to reduce your cancer risks. Contact The Doctor’s House to schedule a consultation with Dr. Okulaja to learn more today.