MORE young Brits are being diagnosed with bowel cancer – prompting calls to lower the screening age.
Rates are rising in the under 50s, with a surge of cases in people aged 20 to 29, two new studies have shown.
A surge in cases of bowel cancer in people under the age of 50 has prompted calls for the screening age to be lowered
Screening saves lives
If the alarming trend continues, experts say the UK will have to screen at a lower age, to detect more cases at an earlier stage.
In England and Wales, everyone over the age of 60 is currently invited to have bowel cancer screening tests every two years. In Scotland screening starts at 50.
That’s why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign – to call on the Government to end the postcode lottery and lower the screening age to 50.
Bowel cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the UK. Around 42,000 Brits are diagnosed, and 16,000 lose their lives to the disease every year.
More than nine in ten new cases are in people over the age of 50, but more than 2,500 younger people are diagnosed each year.
However, bowel cancer can be cured if it’s caught early enough through early diagnosis, which is why screening is so important.
Victory for The Sun
Last summer, health secretary Matthew Hancock announced the screening would be lowered – in a victory for The Sun and campaigners, including Sun columnist Deborah James, who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 35, and Bowel Cancer UK.
But, the new figures published in The Lancet and BMJ, show screening at 45 could be more effective.
Jon Bond – The Sun The Sun, along with campaigners Lauren Backler, centre, and Deborah Alsina from Bowel Cancer UK, left, called on the Government to lower the screening age from 60 to 50 – and last summer they pledged to do so
Sun columnist Deborah James was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 35
Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, told The Sun screening is the “best way to diagnose bowel cancer when it is treatable and curable”.
“Bowel cancer doesn’t have to be the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, it can be prevented at best, or cured.
“Last year, both England and Wales committed to lower the bowel cancer screening age to 50, in line with Scotland,” she said.
“It is crucial that Northern Ireland also reassess their screening age.
“Lowering the screening age will help to transform survival rates for bowel cancer.”
Poor lifestyle ‘could be to blame’
Meanwhile Dr Andrew Beggs, consultant colorectal surgeon and Cancer Research UK expert at the University of Birmingham said the reasons for the surge in young people getting bowel cancer must be urgently investigated.
“The reasons why this is happening aren’t clear,” he said.
“This means the age at which bowel cancer screening needs to start may have to change to screen people at a younger age.
“People under the age of 50 with any ‘red flag’ symptoms – bleeding, a change in bowel habit, weight loss or tummy pain – should get checked out as soon as possible.”
The new findings showed while rates of bowel cancer have increased in the under 50 age group, they’ve dropped – or remained stable – in older generations.
While scientists don’t know for sure, they suspect rising obesity rates, a lack of exercise, boozing and smoking could be to blame.
The 6 ways you can prevent bowel cancerIT’S the second deadliest cancer in the UK but it can be prevented.
A few simple lifestyle changes can help stop bowel cancer striking in the first place.
Get screened – if you are eligible, don’t delay, book your screening test as soon as you get the letter
Stop smoking – around 8 per cent of bowel cancer cases are linked to smoking
Cut back on the booze – sticking to the recommended 14 units a week, that’s six pints or 10 small glasses of wine, reduces your risk
Get moving – aim to do 30 minutes of exercise a day
Eat well – up your fibre intake, it’s vital to keep your bowels moving and there’s evidence to suggest cutting back on red meat helps
Drugs work – there’s no magic pill, but there is evidence to suggest a daily dose of aspirin lowers the risk of polyps, a precursor to bowel cancer
Rise in cases in under 50s
One study, published in the Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology journal, looked at bowel cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, rates in seven developed nations, including the UK.
From 2004 to 2014, colon cancer rates rose by 1.8 per cent, while rectal cancers rose by 1.4 per cent in the UK.
That study showed a large rise in 30 to 39 year olds, with researchers warning people born in the UK now are much more likely to get bowel cancer than older generations.
Dr Marzieh Araghi, lead author of the study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, said: “Our findings are a concern and highlight the need for action to counteract the rising burden of the disease in younger people.
“This rise in incidence among younger generations is likely to be driven in part by the changing prevalence of risk factors, such as obesity and poor diet.
“National programmes to promote healthy diets and physical activity might be the most efficient approach to ensure population-level changes.”
NEVER TOO YOUNGHISTORICALLY bowel cancer has been more common in the over 50s, but this new research suggests the tide may be turning.
Every year in the UK, 2,500 Brits under 50 are told they have the disease – the second most deadly cancer in the country.
Deborah Alsina, CEO of Bowel Cancer UK, said these figures show why it’s so important to warn young people they too are at risk of bowel cancer.
“This is exactly why we launched our Never Too Young campaign, which aims to stop young people dying of bowel cancer,” she said.
“We can do that by improving clinical practice, increasing overall awareness and ensuring access to screening for those most at risk.
“The time has passed where it is in any way acceptable to tell someone under 50, who presents with symptoms, that they are ‘too young for bowel cancer’.”
The new studies show rates in the 50 to 74-age group have “significantly decreased” in some countries.
Ms Alsina said that is likely to be down to screening.
“While progress has been made in the UK, it is not significant,” she warned.
For the Government to honour its pledge to lower the screening age to 50 in England, the NHS needs to roll out a new, more effective screening test.
The FIT test requires just one stool sample, rather than three – and pilot tests have proved people are much more likely to use it.
But, plans to roll out the new test have been repeatedly put on hold. It was due to be introduced last autumn, then that date was moved to April – yet there is still no sign of it.
Ms Alsina said it is vital the powers that be commit to a clear plan to roll out FIT and lower the screening age to 50 as soon as possible – a move that could save up to 4,500 lives every year.
She said: “Bowel cancer does not need to be the UK’s second most deadly cancer, it can be cured – or better still, prevented.
“We need action now to recognise the changing nature of the disease and to put in place measures that enable the whole population to benefit from the opportunity of an early diagnosis when the disease is most treatable.”
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A second study, published in the GUT journal, found rates of bowel cancer started to rise sharply after 2004.
In 20 to 29 year olds, bowel cancer cases rose from 0.8 to 2.3 cases per 100,000 people between 1990 and 2016.
The sharpest rise was between 2004 and 2016 at an average of 7.9 per cent per year.
For those aged 40 to 49 years old, bowel cancer rates fell by 0.8 per cent between 1990 and 2004 but then increased by an average of 1.6 per cent from 20014 to 2016.
The Sun’s Deborah James tells Lorraine viewers to ‘check poo for signs of bowel cancer’
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