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Europe sees bowel cancer rise in young adults

Friday May 17th, 2019

The rate of bowel cancer is rising among adults in Europe, researchers report today.

An observational study, published in today’s (17 May 2019) edition of Gut, found that the rates rose most steeply among 20-29 year-olds, while rates were lower in people over 50.

A team of researchers analysed data from national and regional cancer registries on the number of new cases and deaths related to bowel cancer between 1990 and 2016, using data from 143.7 million people aged 20-49 years from 20 countries, including Germany, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands.

They found that between 1990 and 2016, 187,918 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer and there was a bigger rise in the number of new cases in the latter years of the study period.

The research was led by Dr Manon Spaander, of Erasmus MC University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In the whole study period, bowel cancer incidence rose from 0.8 to 2.3 cases per 100,000 people among the 20-29 age bracket. The sharpest rise – 7.9% per year – was recorded between 2004 and 2016.

Among the 30-39 year olds, the incidence rate rose by an average of 4.9% per year from 2005 to 2016, while rates fell 0.8% between 1990-2004 among the 40-49 age group. However, a 1.6% increase was recorded among the latter age group between 2004 and 2016.

New cases of bowel cancer rose significantly in 12 countries among people aged 20-39 and in eight countries the number of cases rose significantly among 40-49 year olds.

The analysis also found that the number of deaths from bowel cancer did not significantly change among the youngest cohort and fell by 1.1% per year in the whole study period in the 30-39 age group and by 2.4% per year between 1990 and 2009 among those aged 40-49 years.

The authors say that although it is too early to use their findings to support lowering the screening age to 45 in Europe, screening guidelines may need to be reconsidered if the trend continues.

Vuik F, Nieuwenburg S, Bardou M et al. Increasing Incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults in Europe over the last 25 years. Gut 17 May 2019; doi 10.1136/gutjnl-2018-317592

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Infancy to Adolescence

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