It’s the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, and it’s thought that up to half of cases are preventable, however bowel cancer is on the rise amongst young people – where it is also at its most aggressive. What’s the reason behind bowel cancer in young people, and could there be ways to prevent it?
The rise of bowel cancer in young people
Bowel cancer is most common in older people, but in recent years it seems that the number of younger people suffering from the disease is growing. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of colon cancer cases among 20-39 year olds increased 7.4% each year. It’s something that has already been reported in places such as Australia, the United States and China and other countries around the world.
The Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam revealed their findings at the UEG Week gastroenterology meeting in Vienna. They examined bowel cancer cases across Europe, finding that there was an increase amongst young people in 65% of countries. While rates amongst young people are growing, they are declining amongst older people thanks to better screening programmes and faster diagnosis.
While the reasons behind the increase are still to be examined, it’s believed that obesity and other poor lifestyle choices could be behind it. Those who are overweight in their teenage years and early 20s stand an increased chance of developing bowel cancer in their 50s, making it understandable that younger people with an unhealthy lifestyle will be at risk of developing the disease.
Reducing the risk of bowel cancer in young people
While rates of young people developing bowel cancer are increasing, the risk remains low in the UK – 4.9 per 100,000 of the population. Preventing obesity could be one way to improve the rate, alongside encouraging a healthier lifestyle.
Some examples of living healthier and preventing obesity include:
- Staying within the recommended amount of daily calories for your height and weight. Using a calorie tracker to monitor your eating could help you to maintain a healthy weight.
- Eating fewer processed meats. These contain a number of chemicals as well as high fat and salt content that could contribute to obesity.
- Cook more meals from scratch to help you keep better track of what you’re eating and to stop you consuming too many hidden calories from added sugar and salt.
- Eat foods that are known for maintaining a healthy bowel.
- Exercise to help keep your body fit and to burn off excess calories.
- Cut back on alcohol and give up smoking completely.
- Drink plenty of water to help with your digestion.
- Eat foods that are rich in fibre to keep your digestive system in check.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a key part of staying healthy in later life and reducing your risk of developing different health conditions. Practicing self-care and making an effort to exercise and eat healthily could help prevent bowel cancer in young people, and in later life. If you develop any symptoms or want to speak to someone about making changes to your diet, make an appointment with your GP.