Friday March 01, 2024

Spike in bowel cancer cases among younger people across Europe

Published : 29 Jan 2024, 22:29

  By Stefan Parsch, dpa
DF File Photo.

Death rates from colorectal cancer among 25- to 49-year-olds in the European Union and Britain are on the rise, a recently published study from the University of Milan has found.

One cause for the increase is the higher proportion of overweight young people, said Carlo La Vecchia, who led the research published in the scientific journal Annals of Oncology.

Other factors include increased alcohol consumption and reduced physical activity, researchers reported.

Colorectal cancer at a younger age is generally more aggressive and the chances of survival are lower than for older people, the researchers explained.

They suggested that health authorities should consider extending bowel cancer screening to younger people, starting at the age 45.

Colorectal cancer usually develops from growths in the bowel wall. These can be removed during a colonoscopy before they potentially develop into cancer.

In Germany, women aged 55 and over and men aged 50 and over can have a colonoscopy when they are covered by country's public health insurance system, which is funded by contributions from employers and employees.

According to the German Cancer Research Centre, around 55,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 20,000 die.

The research team predicts that in 2024, the death rate from bowel cancer will rise sharply in Britain compared to 2018 - by 26% for men and by almost 39% for women.

There will also be an increase in Italy of 1.5% for men and 2.6% for women. In Spain and Poland, the increase is estimated at 5.5% for men and 5.9% for women.

In Germany, cases for women aged 25 to 49 are expected to increase by 7.2%.

But the absolute figures for young people are still comparatively low, researchers said.

The data used by the authors of the study comes from the World Health Organization (WHO). It considered data from 1970 until latest available information between 2017 and 2021. This is the 14th year in a row that the team has published such forecasts.

According to La Vecchia, the increase in rates among young people is worrying because the diagnosis and treatment of bowel cancer has improved.

On the other hand, the death rate for colorectal cancer across all age groups, taking into account the age structure of the population, is falling.

In Germany, compared to 2019, death rates have dropped by 11.55% for men and 7.99% for women.

According to La Vecchia's team, the age-standardized death rates for cancer are also continuing to fall across the European Union.

Averaged across all types of cancer, they have fallen by 6.5% for men compared to 2018, and respectively by 4.3% for women.

In the age-standardized rate, the age distribution of the population is taken into account as a factor in the calculation.

In contrast, the actual number of cancer deaths is rising due to the increasing number of older people in the European Union, the study reported. According to the forecast, about 1.27 million people will die of cancer in the EU this year.

La Vecchia believes that more political measures are needed to promote physical activity and reduce alcohol consumption.