Last year the Government agreed to lower the screening age from 60 to 50 – in a victory for The Sun’s No Time 2 Lose campaign
MORE young Brits are being diagnosed with bowel cancer – prompting calls to lower the screening age.
Rates are rising in the under 50s, with a surge of cases in people aged 20 to 29, two new studies have shown.
Screening saves lives
If the alarming trend continues, experts say the UK will have to screen at a lower age, to detect more cases at an earlier stage.
In England and Wales, everyone over the age of 60 is currently invited to have bowel cancer screening tests every two years. In Scotland screening starts at 50.
That’s why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign – to call on the Government to end the postcode lottery and lower the screening age to 50.
Bowel cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the UK. Around 42,000 Brits are diagnosed, and 16,000 lose their lives to the disease every year.
More than nine in ten new cases are in people over the age of 50, but more than 2,500 younger people are diagnosed each year.
However, bowel cancer can be cured if it’s caught early enough through early diagnosis, which is why screening is so important.
Victory for The Sun
Last summer, health secretary Matthew Hancock announced the screening would be lowered – in a victory for The Sun and campaigners, including Sun columnist Deborah James, who was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 35, and Bowel Cancer UK.
Before screening can be rolled out to 50-year-olds, the NHS must introduce a new, more effective test – a move which has been repeatedly stalled, since last spring
But, the new figures published in The Lancet and BMJ, show screening at 45 could be more effective.
Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, told The Sun screening is the “best way to diagnose bowel cancer when it is treatable and curable”.
“Bowel cancer doesn’t have to be the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, it can be prevented at best, or cured.
“Last year, both England and Wales committed to lower the bowel cancer screening age to 50, in line with Scotland,” she said.
“It is crucial that Northern Ireland also reassess their screening age.
“Lowering the screening age will help to transform survival rates for bowel cancer.”
Poor lifestyle ‘could be to blame’
Meanwhile Dr Andrew Beggs, consultant colorectal surgeon and Cancer Research UK expert at the University of Birmingham said the reasons for the surge in young people getting bowel cancer must be urgently investigated.
“The reasons why this is happening aren’t clear,” he said.
“This means the age at which bowel cancer screening needs to start may have to change to screen people at a younger age.
“People under the age of 50 with any ‘red flag’ symptoms – bleeding, a change in bowel habit, weight loss or tummy pain – should get checked out as soon as possible.”
The new findings showed while rates of bowel cancer have increased in the under 50 age group, they’ve dropped – or remained stable – in older generations.
While scientists don’t know for sure, they suspect rising obesity rates, a lack of exercise, boozing and smoking could be to blame.
Rise in cases in under 50s
One study, published in the Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology journal, looked at bowel cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, rates in seven developed nations, including the UK.
From 2004 to 2014, colon cancer rates rose by 1.8 per cent, while rectal cancers rose by 1.4 per cent in the UK.
That study showed a large rise in 30 to 39 year olds, with researchers warning people born in the UK now are much more likely to get bowel cancer than older generations.
Dr Marzieh Araghi, lead author of the study from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, said: “Our findings are a concern and highlight the need for action to counteract the rising burden of the disease in younger people.
“This rise in incidence among younger generations is likely to be driven in part by the changing prevalence of risk factors, such as obesity and poor diet.
“National programmes to promote healthy diets and physical activity might be the most efficient approach to ensure population-level changes.”
A second study, published in the GUT journal, found rates of bowel cancer started to rise sharply after 2004.
In 20 to 29 year olds, bowel cancer cases rose from 0.8 to 2.3 cases per 100,000 people between 1990 and 2016.
The sharpest rise was between 2004 and 2016 at an average of 7.9 per cent per year.
For those aged 40 to 49 years old, bowel cancer rates fell by 0.8 per cent between 1990 and 2004 but then increased by an average of 1.6 per cent from 20014 to 2016.