Screening call urged after rise in bowel cancer rise

Two studies have found that more young people under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with bowel cancer, prompting calls to lower the screening age.

Despite total numbers of cases in young people remaining low, the studies highlighted a sharp rise in rates in 20 to 29-year-olds, with the researchers saying that obesity and poor diet could be factors.

Dutch researchers have revealed in their study that bowel cancer incidence increased from 0.8 to 2.3 cases per 100,000 people over 26 years across 20 European countries with the sharpest rise in rates, of 7.9 per cent per year, occurring between 2004 and 2016.

A separate study, in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, confirms the trend among young adults in high-income countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It found a 1.8 per cent increase in colon cancer cases and 1.4 per cent rise in rectal cancer cases in people under 50 in the UK between 1995 and 2014.

Andrew Beggs, consultant colorectal surgeon from the University of Birmingham, said rising rates of bowel cancer among young patients ‘must be urgently investigated’, saying that the age at which bowel cancer screening needs to start may have to change to screen people at a younger age.

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