Young adults have higher bowel cancer rates, study finds

May 20, 2019

Colorectal cancer is common amongst the aged and seems to be an affliction for young adults as well – European studies highlight a sharp rise in 20 to 29-year-olds in the past two decades, probably because of poor diet and/or obesity.

Researchers from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, reported an increased incidence of colorectal cancer rates from 0.8 to 2.3 cases per 100,000 European people over 26 years. The sharpest rise of 7.9% per year occurred between 2004 and 2016 for 20-somethings, but rates fluctuated for those over 40, and no fatalities were recorded at any age.Another study appeared to confirm the trend in many high-income countries, such as the UK, Australia and Canada – there was a 1.8% and 1.4% increase in colon and rectal cancer cases in people under 50 in the UK from 1995-2014.

Lead study author Dr. Marzieh Araghi from France’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has advised screening overhauls, as population-based screening in under-50s is ineffective due to low incidence numbers, while younger people are at significant risk of genetic susceptibility to colorectal cancer.

Colorectal/bowel cancer is marked by early symptoms of frequent bathroom breaks and loose stools, later progressing to bloody stools, abdominal pain, changes in eating habits, and persistent discomfort. Experts have urged doctors not to ignore symptoms in young people as these can be identified through routine screening.In most of Europe, screening programmes start at the age of 50 because cases of the disease are much higher among this age group. However, there have been calls for screening to start earlier, particularly in the US.

Dr. Marco Gerlinger, from the Institute of Cancer Research, UK, had noticed increasing numbers of young patients with bowel cancer for some time: “The new studies show more efforts are needed to understand the lifestyle factors that trigger bowel cancers in young people and to rethink how screening must be adjusted to prevent such devastating cancers.”

Fellow Englishman Dr. Andrew Beggs, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon from the University of Birmingham, said screening needs to start from those at a younger age – any ‘red flag’ symptoms (bleeding, a change in bowel habit, weight loss or stomach pain) should be checked immediately.

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Category: Education, Features

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