Young-onset bowel cancer on the rise

Bowel Cancer Australia

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A new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed bowel cancer cases in adolescents and young adults (15 - 24 years) have increased 186% in the past three decades.

Bowel cancer was also the most common cause of cancer death for those aged 25–29. 

Bowel cancer and brain cancer were both responsible for the greatest number of cancer deaths for those aged 30–34, and breast cancer was the most common cause of cancer death for those aged 35–39.

While the reasons for increased bowel cancers in young people are not well understood, the report noted the increased incidence might be related to risk factors including hereditary predisposition, and environmental factors, such as poor nutrition, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

According to the report, in 2010-2014 melanoma was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in young Australians, followed by gonadal germ cell cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid carcinoma, and bowel cancer. 

Among young Australians aged 15-24, bowel cancer showed the largest increase in incidence rates (186%), followed by thyroid carcinoma (109%), glioblastoma and anaplastic astrocytoma (102%), Hodgkin lymphoma (65%), gonadal germ cell cancer (63%), and acute myeloid leukaemia (54%).

The report noted increases in incidence rates for bowel cancer and testicular cancer (a common form of gonadal germ cell cancer) among young people have also occurred internationally.

The five-year relative survival for young Australians aged 15-24 diagnosed with bowel cancer was 87.3%, which means that these young people had around an eight in ten chance of surviving five years after diagnosis relative to comparable people in the general population. 

It is a common misconception that bowel cancer is 'an old person's disease', but the reality is that you should never be told that you are too young to have bowel cancer.

Being young does not make you immune to bowel cancer.

No one knows your body better than you, so listen to it and if something isn't right or you are at increased bowel cancer risk, make an appointment to speak with your doctor as soon as possible.

To help raise awareness of bowel cancer in younger people and to better support the growing number of young Australians diagnosed with young-onset bowel cancer each year, Bowel Cancer Australia developed the Bowel Cancer... You're Never Too Young advocacy initiative – providing resources uniquely designed for younger people, helping them to better understand their bowel cancer risk and to take appropriate action.

For further details head to nevertooyoung.org.au

If you or someone you know has been affected by young-onset bowel cancer and would like to join others with a shared experience, register to become a #Never2Young Champion and help Bowel Cancer Australia raise awareness that you’re never too young to develop bowel cancer.

For any questions related to bowel cancer, speak with your GP or call our Helpline at 1800 555 494 to speak to a Bowel Care Nurse.

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