Young People Face a Potential 40% Spike in Bowel Cancer Mortality

Young people face a potential surge of up to 40% in bowel cancer deaths, with scientists attributing the increase to the escalating rates of obesity and alcohol consumption.

A comprehensive study conducted by an international team of researchers utilized data on cancer deaths across the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), dating back to 2010, to project the trajectory of cancer-related fatalities in 2024.

The analysis revealed that, among women under 50 in the UK, the rate of colorectal cancer deaths is anticipated to rise by 39%, increasing from 3.3 individuals per 100,000 in the five years before the pandemic to 4.58 in 2024. 

Similarly, for men, the expected increase is 26%, climbing from 3.71 to 4.68 per 100,000.

Startlingly, the UK stands out as the worst-affected country in Europe, with Italy being the sole nation experiencing an escalation in the bowel cancer death rate for both young men (1.5%) and women (2.6%). Other countries witnessing concerning trends include Polish men (5.9%), male Spaniards (5.5%), and German women (7.2%).

While cancer rates are declining among older populations in both the UK and the EU, the rise in bowel cancer deaths among younger individuals is raising alarms. 

Lifestyle factors over the last two decades, characterized by unhealthy habits, contribute significantly to this concerning trend.

Professor Carlo La Vecchia from the University of Milan, a key contributor to the study, identified overweight, obesity, high blood-sugar levels, and diabetes as crucial factors contributing to the surge. 

Furthermore, increases in heavy alcohol consumption in central and northern Europe and the UK, coupled with reduced physical activity, were highlighted as additional contributors.

Prof. La Vecchia emphasized the urgent need for governments to address these lifestyle issues through the promotion of healthy diets, exercise, and moderation in alcohol consumption.

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Bowel Cancer Screening Amid Rising Death Rates

Young people face a potential surge of up to 40% in bowel cancer deaths, with scientists attributing the increase to the escalating rates of obesity and alcohol consumption.

He recommended the extension of bowel cancer screening to younger age groups, proposing a starting age of 45.

In England, the existing bowel cancer screening program invites individuals aged 60 to 74, with plans underway to expand the initiative to those aged 50 to 59.

While the overall picture indicates a positive decline in predicted rates of bowel cancer deaths for men and stable rates for women in the UK, the aging population and increased life expectancy contribute to an overall rise in the total number of cancer deaths. 

Despite a projected 3% decline in rates for men, and stability for women, the study estimates an increase of approximately 1,000 more men and 800 more women succumbing to bowel cancer in the UK by 2024 compared to 2018.

Bowel cancer ranks third, following lung and breast cancer, in terms of total cancer deaths. Notably, it holds the top position as the leading cancer killer in non-smokers.

Dr. Panagiota Mitrou, Director of Research, Policy, and Innovation at the World Cancer Research Fund, expressed alarm at the predicted rises in bowel cancer death rates, especially among younger individuals in the UK. 

She stressed the importance of promoting healthy habits and early detection in national health policies.

The Department of Health and Social Care assured that substantial measures are being taken to encourage healthier food choices and combat obesity, recognizing its association with various serious diseases and substantial costs to the NHS.

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