Men’s Bowel cancer risk ‘doubles’ in a generation

Data published by Cancer Research UK states that men are more likely to develop bowel cancer now than they were 35 years ago. Figures reveal that their risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer has increased from approximately one in 29 to one in 15. For women, the rise is more than a quarter, from one in 26 to one in 19. (1)

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the third most common cancer in the UK, after breast and lung cancer. The increase in incidence is partly the result of the ageing population; it can occur at any age but is most common in people over the age of 60. (2) Cancer Research UK epidemiologist Professor Peter Sasieni, who produced the figures published in the British Journal of Cancer, said: “As people are living longer the numbers getting cancer have increased and the lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer has gone up.” (1)

Along with the major risk factor of an ageing population, obesity, higher alcohol consumption and less exercise may also be accountable for the increased prevalence. Jessica Harris, a health information officer from Cancer Research UK, said “More and more people are overweight or obese than they were in the past. We know that most people are not getting the recommended level of physical activity. And we know that lots of people exceed the recommended limits of alcohol consumption.”

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said “But even though the chances of getting the disease have increased in the population there are many ways that people can cut their own risk. You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by keeping a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet that’s high in fibre and low in red and processed meat, cutting down on alcohol and not smoking. It’s also important to take up the opportunity to take part in bowel screening when invited.” (1)

But there is some good news, as statistics show that even though more people are developing bowel cancer, more people are surviving the disease. Half of all patients diagnosed with bowel cancer now survive the disease for at least 10 years (around 45 per cent) – double the number who would have done so 35 years ago (around 23 per cent). (3) The increase in bowel cancer survival rates are due to greater focus on colorectal cancer screening in the older population, improved diagnostic techniques and the development of cancer screening blood tests, all of which result in earlier cancer diagnosis.

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