7 Most Common Types Of Cancer That Young Women Develop & The Odds Of Getting Them

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Cancer is not a topic anyone enjoys talking about, but knowing what cancers are most likely to affect certain groups of people can keep you vigilant about watching out for potential symptoms or getting important checkups. There are certain types of cancers that are more likely to affect young women, and they all have their own risk factors. Just because you are a young woman doesn't mean you should freak out and fear these diseases, but it is useful to know how likely you are to get affected and what you can do to prevent getting them.

"Cancers are usually a disease of older people," Claire F. Verschraegen, MS, MD, FACP, Director of the Division of Medical Oncology at The OSU Wexner Medical Center, tells Bustle. "Most cancers occur because older cells have more difficulties to repair themselves, leading to molecular anomalies that favor cancerous growth. In younger people, cancer are often the results of “isolated chromosome translocation,” code for specific abnormal proteins that trigger cancer growth. Sometimes it could be the result of a familial gene trait favoring cancer. Young people are also more susceptible to various infections that can lead to cancer, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) infections or Epstein-Barr virus infections."

Here are seven of the most common cancers that young women develop, including their risk factors and your odds of getting them, according to experts.


Breast Cancer

Breast cancer risk is more rare in younger women than it is in older women: Under seven percent of all breast cancer cases happen in women under 40, according to WebMD. However, younger women with breast cancer have a higher mortality rate and higher risk of metastatic recurrence. "There is a higher risk of developing [breast cancer] especially if you have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or if you are a known BRCA carrier," Shikha Jain, an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, tells Bustle.


Cervical Cancer

Like breast cancer, cervical cancer is more common in older women than younger women, but young women are still at risk. Out of women younger than 40 years of age, 78 percent of cervical cancer cases were diagnosed in women aged 30 to 39 years and 21 percent of cervical cancer cases were diagnosed in women aged 20 to 29 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One percent occur in women under 20 years of age.

Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, can cause cervical cancer, but these can be prevented with the proper vaccination. Pap smears can also detect abnormal cervical-cell changes, which is important since cervical cancer is treatable if caught early.


Thyroid Cancer

Although the risk tends to go up as people get older, thyroid cancer is often found at a younger age than most other adult cancers, and it’s much more common in women than in men, according to the American Cancer Society. Risks for thyroid cancer include a family history as well as exposure to radiation, according to radiation oncologist Dr. Editha (Edie) Krueger. Exposure to toxins, especially smoking, alcohol, and environmental pollution, can also play a role.



Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults especially young women, according to the American Cancer Society. In fact, one in 152 women under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with melanoma. "Sun exposure is a well-known risk factor for skin cancers, specifically melanoma, in this population," Dr. Stacy D’Andre, a Sutter Medical Group oncologist, tells Bustle. You can reduce your risk by limiting sun exposure and wearing sunscreen.



Lymphoma, a cancer of certain cells of the immune system called lymphocytes, most commonly seen in the U.S. in young adults in their 20's and those in late adulthood. "The biggest risk factors are a history of infectious mononucleosis caused by EBV, people who are immunosuppressed, and individuals with other autoimmune disorders," says Jain. There is also a higher risk in those with a family history.



Like lymphoma, leukemia — a cancer of the bone marrow and blood — is more common in adults younger than 25, according to the American Cancer Society. The most common type in younger people include acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Risk factors include chemical exposure, smoking, and certain genetic diseases, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.



Hannah Burton/Bustle

"Sarcoma is a cancer of the cells that make up the connective tissue of your body, like your bones and muscle," holistic oncologist Roy Vongtama, MD tells Bustle. Although it is a more rare cancer, it affects younger individuals more often than adults, according to Jain. Like most cancers, risk factors include family history and exposure to chemicals.

Although these cancers are the most common that occur in young people, there's no need to panic — many are still rare, and if you continue to live a healthy lifestyle, you can help reduce your risk.