What’s Behind the Increase in Bowel Cancer Among Younger Australians?

Suzanne Mahady

writer

Suzanne Mahady

Gastroenterologist & Clinical Epidemiologist, Senior Lecturer, Monash University

Eleonora Feletto

writer

Eleonora Feletto

Research fellow, Cancer Council NSW

Karen Canfell

writer

Karen Canfell

Adjunct professor, UNSW

Bowel cancer mostly affects people over the age of 50, but recent evidence suggests it’s on the rise among younger Australians.

Our study, published recently in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, found the incidence of bowel cancer, which includes colon and rectal cancer, has increased by up to 9% in people under 50 from the 1990s until now.

Our research examined all recorded cases of bowel cancer from the past 40 years in Australians aged 20 and over. Previous studies assessing bowel cancer incidence in young Australians have also documented an increase in the younger age group.

This trend is also being seen internationally. A study from the United States suggests an increase in bowel cancer incidence in people aged 54 and younger. The research shows rectal cancer incidence increased by 3.2% annually from 1974 to 2013 among those aged age 20-29.

Bowel cancers are predicted to be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia this year. In 2018, Australians have a one in 13 chance of being diagnosed with bowel cancer by their 85th birthday.

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Suzanne Mahady

writer

Suzanne Mahady

Gastroenterologist & Clinical Epidemiologist, Senior Lecturer, Monash University

Eleonora Feletto

writer

Eleonora Feletto

Research fellow, Cancer Council NSW

Karen Canfell

writer

Karen Canfell

Adjunct professor, UNSW

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