One in 10 new bowel cancer cases occur in people aged under 50, according to a new Australian study, leading to growing calls for lowering of the starting age for screening from 50 to 45.
The study reviewed 557 patients who underwent a colonoscopy between 2013 and 2017, finding growing evidence of higher rates of bowel cancer in people aged under 50.
Noting that bowel cancer was estimated to be the leading cause of cancer death in young males (30-34 years) and females (25-34 years) last year, researchers considered whether current screening guidelines (50-74 years) may need to be lowered.
The study found 21.5% of colonoscopies performed on patients under 50 identified pathology (adenomas); with 1.9% diagnosed with bowel cancer.
All patients diagnosed with bowel cancer, which kills 108 people each week, experienced symptoms, having stage 3 (36.4%) or stage 4 (45.5%) cancer at diagnosis.
Colorectal surgeon and Bowel Cancer Australia Director, Associate Professor Graham Newstead, said a lower starting age for bowel cancer screening could improve health outcomes, along with better awareness among both patients and GPs.
Bowel Cancer Australia runs a Never2Young campaign, providing resources deigned for young people and helping younger Australians understand their bowel cancer risk.
“Over 1,500 bowel cancer cases occur in people under age 50 each year, so we need to be bold and begin screening between 45-49 while also screening participation rates for those over 50,” Professor Newstead argued.
The study’s findings echo research published in the Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology last year which found the number of people aged under 50 diagnosed with colon (2%) and rectal cancer (2.6%) is increasing each year in Australia.
In May 2018, the American Cancer Society lowered its screening age guidelines from 50 to 45 following increasing rates among younger people.
For more information visit www.bowelcanceraustralia.org.au