Young face huge rise in bowel cancer

BOWEL cancer cases are expected to soar in younger adults by up to 90 per cent by 2030, ­according to a new study.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland. Picture: Tony MarshBowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland. Picture: Tony Marsh
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland. Picture: Tony Marsh

While cases of colorectal cancer in the over-50s have ­declined, numbers in the 20-49 age range have risen.

A US study of all patients diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer from 1975 until 2010 found one reason for the rise was a lack of routine screening.

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The Scottish Government launched its £30 million Detect Cancer Early Campaign in 2012, aiming to increase the number of Scots diagnosed in the earliest stages by 25 per cent.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Scotland, with almost 4,000 people diagnosed every year, half of whom are under 50. In 2012, 24 teenagers were diagnosed with the disease in the UK, though almost 90 per cent of all patients diagnosed are over 60.

Yet the under-50s are not routinely screened in the UK.


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The US research drew on a Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry and predicts the incidence rate of bowel cancer in the 20 to 34-year-old group will increase by 37.8 per cent by 2020 and by 90 per cent by 2030.

Dr Christina Bailey, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, said: “The increasing incidence of colorectal cancer highlights the need to investigate potential causes and external influences such as lack of screening and behavioural factors.”

The study results indicate that overall, the incidence rate declined by 0.92 per cent between 1975 and 2010. Rates declined overall by 1.03 per cent in men and 0.91 per cent in women.

Bowel Cancer UK’s Never Too Young campaign was launched last year to raise awareness of bowel cancer in the under-50s. The high-profile campaign was backed by celebrities such as Sir Chris Hoy and Ricky Gervais.

Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “While bowel cancer is thankfully relatively rare in younger people, around 2,100 people under 50 are still diagnosed with it each year, often late. That’s why we launched our Never Too Young campaign, to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of younger bowel cancer patients and to raise awareness amongst younger people and health professionals. Early diagnosis really does save lives.”

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She added: “In memory of all the 550 people under 50 who lose their lives to bowel cancer each year in the UK, we are determined to save lives by ensuring people gain access to the screening they need, so bowel cancer can be ruled out first, not last, in younger patients.”

A Holyrood spokesman said: “We invite every­one aged 50-74 to take part in home bowel screening. The age range is based on scientific evidence and the clinical effectiveness of the test.

“The [UK] National Screening Committee regularly reviews the evidence for and effectiveness of screening, as does the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. Should new evidence show the programme could be more effective, this would be considered and any appropriate changes made.”


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