Death rates for under-50s in the UK from bowel cancer are expected to increase by 33%.
Experts are projecting a 33% increase in the mortality rate of individuals under 50 in the UK due to bowel cancer this year. This rise is concerning and is attributed to the rise in obesity, unhealthy dietary habits, and lack of physical activity.
According to a study published in the journal Annals of Oncology, death rates for individuals aged 25 to 49 are expected to rise by 39% for women and 26% for men in the year 2024. This is compared to the average rates between 2015 and 2019, which was the last five-year period analyzed.
According to the study, it is predicted that the mortality rate for bowel cancer in women of all ages in the UK will increase. This is a concerning trend that does not seem to align with the decreasing pattern seen in most other types of cancer.
Specialists stated that the estimates indicated a pressing necessity to promote healthier habits among adults at an earlier stage in their lives. The results also sparked requests for individuals to undergo screening at an earlier time.
Cancer Research UK reports that over half of bowel cancer cases in the UK (54%) can be avoided. A significant portion of cases (28%) are linked to a low fibre diet, while 13% are attributed to consumption of processed meat. Other contributing factors include obesity (11%), alcohol consumption (6%), and lack of physical activity (5%).
In recent times, there has been growing worry on a global scale regarding the growing number of young adults who are being diagnosed with cancer. In the past 30 years, the number of individuals under the age of 50 who have been diagnosed with cancer has risen by almost 80%.
The most recent study examined the five largest countries in the EU – France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Spain – as well as the UK. It projected the expected cancer mortality rates in 2024 compared to the average rates from 2015 to 2019.
In general, the overall death rates for all types of cancer are expected to decrease. However, the research showed worrying trends in regards to younger individuals and their likelihood of dying from bowel cancer. With the exception of France, it is predicted that the death rates for bowel cancer among those aged 25 to 49 will increase in other countries by 2024.
The death rates for women in Italy are expected to rise by 2.6%, while for men it is predicted to increase by 1.5%. In Poland and Spain, the rate among men is expected to rise by 5.9% and 5.5% respectively, while in Germany, the predicted increase among women is 7.2%. In contrast, the UK showed significantly higher jumps in death rates with a 39% increase among women and a 26% increase among men.
In the United Kingdom, bowel cancer death rates are projected to increase in women of all ages, although only by a small percentage (1.4%). This trend is unique among the six countries being studied.
Prof Carlo La Vecchia, the leader of the study and a professor specializing in medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Milan, stated that the increasing rates of bowel cancer among young individuals can be attributed to several factors. These include being overweight or obese, having related health issues like high blood sugar and diabetes, and a rise in heavy alcohol consumption in central and northern Europe as well as the UK. Additionally, there has been a decrease in physical activity which may also contribute to the rise in bowel cancer rates.
Drinking alcohol has been associated with an increased risk of developing bowel cancer at a younger age. However, countries like France and Italy, where alcohol consumption has decreased, have not seen a significant increase in death rates from this type of cancer.
Bowel cancer diagnosed at a younger age is typically more severe and has lower chances of survival when compared to cases found in older individuals.
La Vecchia added: “National governments should consider strengthening policies to encourage increased physical activity, a reduction in the number of people who are overweight or obese, and a reduction in alcohol consumption.
To prevent bowel cancer, governments should consider expanding the screening process to include individuals aged 45 and above.
Different countries in Europe have different screening programs, but due to a rise in the number of cases of bowel cancer among younger individuals in the United States, the US Preventive Services Task Force has suggested starting screening at 45 years old.
The Department of Health and Social Care’s representative stated that the UK National Screening Committee, consisting of medical professionals, evaluates scientific data and determines age groups for screening programs based on the principle of doing more good than harm.
Individuals between the ages of 60 and 74 in England are eligible for bowel cancer screening, and the program is now being extended to those aged 50 to 59. In Scotland and Wales, screening is available at the ages of 50 and 55, respectively.
The bowel cancer screening program in Northern Ireland provides biennial screenings to individuals between the ages of 60 and 74 who are enrolled with a general practitioner.
According to Dr Panagiota Mitrou, who is in charge of research, policy, and innovation at World Cancer Research Fund International, the projected increase in bowel cancer mortality rates, particularly in younger individuals in the UK, is concerning.
According to Mitrou, the results were not completely unexpected. This is due to the fact that young individuals are being exposed to potential risks, such as obesity, at a young age. Mitrou emphasized the importance of promoting healthy behaviors, like maintaining a well-balanced diet and a healthy weight from an early age, as well as avoiding alcohol.
According to Sophia Lowes from Cancer Research UK, there has been a worrying increase in the projected number of deaths from bowel cancer among individuals aged 25 to 49. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that the total number of deaths in this age group is still relatively low. Approximately 5% of all bowel cancer deaths in the UK occur in individuals aged 25 to 49, with the majority of deaths being among older individuals.
According to Lowes, individuals of any age should not disregard any unusual changes they may notice and should consult their doctor. While it is unlikely to be cancer, early detection can greatly impact the outcome.