Good news on bowel cancer

Reduction in age tests to be offered may reduce cancer developing

Almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.

94% are diagnosed in people over the age of 50 and 59% are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over. But bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age. More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50. One in 14 men and One in 19 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Public Health England has announced that the age people are offered a test for bowel cancer will be dropped to 50, ensuring many who are potentially at risk will be caught before bowel cancer develops.

It’s currently offered for people in England aged 60-74 every two years, whereas those Scotland and Wales will be offered the test from age 50 from 2019.

There is a new test, the FIT (faecal immunochemical home test kit) test, which is used to detect and quantify the amount of human blood in a single stool sample. An abnormal result requires further investigation.

The FIT test is easy!

  • It only needs single sample
  • It’s more sensitive so detects abnormalities more easily
  • There's no need for repeat tests.

The latest recommendations will not delay the roll out of FIT, which is a priority.

The evidence shows that screening people at a younger age would enable more bowel cancers to be picked up at an earlier stage, where treatment is likely to be more effective and survival chances improved.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer means a cancer that starts in the colon (large bowel) or back passage (rectum). It is also known as colorectal cancer. Cancers can also occur in the small bowel (intestine).

Who is at risk?

  • Bowel cancer is more common in older people. 60% of bowel cancer cases in the UK each year are in people 70 or over
  • Those with a parent, brother/sister, son/daughter diagnosed with bowel cancer
  • Growths in the bowel, “polyps” or “adenomas”, while not cancerous can develop into cancer over time
  • Having ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease increases your risk of bowel cancer by up to 70%
  • You have an increased risk if you have already had a bowel cancer in the past
  • People with diabetes, gallstones or acromegaly have an increased risk of bowel cancer
  • People with Human papilloma virus (HPV) or helicobacter pylori (H pylori) have an increased risk
  • 10% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to drinking alcohol
  • 10% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to smoking
  • 13% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese
  • Eating too much red and processed meat and/or eating too little fibre is linked to bowel cancer.