Walter G. Wasser

Rising Cancer Rates: Gen X Faces Higher Risk

Recent research published in JAMA Network Open delves into cancer incidence trends across successive generations in the United States, uncovering alarming patterns that suggest cancer rates may remain high for decades. The study, conducted by Philip S. Rosenberg, PhD, and Adalberto Miranda-Filho, PhD, examines the incidence of invasive cancers from 1992 to 2018, focusing on generational differences and demographic factors.

Key Findings

The study analyzes data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program, encompassing 3.8 million cancer cases across various demographics. The research reveals that Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) is experiencing larger per-capita increases in cancer incidence than previous generations, particularly compared to Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).

For Generation X women, significant increases were observed in thyroid, kidney, rectal, corpus uterine, colon, pancreatic cancers, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and leukemia. Similarly, Generation X men showed increased incidence rates for thyroid, kidney, rectal, colon, and prostate cancers and leukemia. Despite decreases in lung and cervical cancer rates among women and lung, liver, and gallbladder cancer rates among men, the overall cancer incidence in Generation X remains higher than in Baby Boomers due to the prevalence of other cancers.

3.8 Million Patients: A Stark Indicator

The study’s cohort of 3.8 million patients with invasive cancers reveals that Generation X — born between 1965-1980 — has a higher risk of cancer than any prior generation since 1908. This finding underscores the significance of the rising cancer incidence and the need for targeted public health interventions.


The study suggests that the overall trajectory of cancer incidence in the US is concerning, with Generation X showing higher rates than any prior generation from 1908 to 1964. This trend is especially pronounced among Hispanic and non-Hispanic White individuals. If these trends continue, Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) may face even higher cancer rates as they age.

Factors Contributing to Rising Cancer Rates

Several factors may contribute to these trends, including lifestyle changes, environmental exposures, and advancements in medical imaging and diagnostic techniques. Increasing obesity rates and sedentary lifestyles are significant contributors, as well as changes in cancer registry policies and diagnostic criteria, which have led to the inclusion of more cases in recent years.

Preventive Measures and Future Outlook

Despite substantial efforts in cancer prevention and control, including reduced tobacco consumption and widespread screening for precancerous lesions, the study underscores the need for continued and enhanced public health initiatives. The American Cancer Society and other health organizations advocate for reducing tobacco and alcohol use, increasing physical activity, improving dietary habits, and promoting breastfeeding to diminish cancer risks and improve overall health.

However, achieving these goals remains challenging due to socioeconomic inequalities and disparities in healthcare access. Universal implementation of healthy lifestyle recommendations is still a work in progress in the US, with significant obstacles such as income inequality, underinsurance, and deficits in the built environment.


The findings from this study highlight the urgent need for continued research and public health efforts to address the rising cancer incidence among younger generations in the US. By understanding and mitigating the factors contributing to these trends, we can hope to reduce cancer rates and improve health outcomes for future generations. The challenge is formidable, but with concerted effort and investment in preventive measures, we can make strides toward a healthier future.


Original Investigation Statistics and Research Methods. June 10, 2024. Cancer Incidence Trends in Successive Social Generations in the US. Philip S. Rosenberg, PhD; Adalberto Miranda-Filho, PhD. Author Affiliations Article Information. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(6). doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.15731.

About the Author
The author is a specialist in nephrology and internal medicine and lives with his wife and family in Jerusalem.
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