Increasing numbers of people under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with bowel cancer, according to two studies today published in GUT. The researchers examined bowel cancer data from patients between 1990 and 2016.

The study covered 20 European countries and 143.7 million people up to the age of 49. It found that, though still relatively low among young people, there has been a marked increase in the numbers diagnosed between the age of 20 and 29.

In particular, the study found that in the 20 - 29 age group the incidence of bowel cancer increased almost 8% each year between 2004 and 2016. In the next age group, 30 - 39, the rate grew by almost 5% between 2005 and 2016.

Encouragingly, rates among the over 50s seem to be declining, and the chance of picking up bowel cancer earlier is helped significantly by the NHS screening test. No such test currently exists for those under the age of 50, and much of the country is still waiting for the roll out of the government's pledge to lower the age from 60 to 50.

The rate of the increase among younger people has led to a recommendation to further lower the age at which screening starts.

Researchers are unsure what is causing this worrying upward trend but, like them, Bowel & Cancer Research points to lifestyle factors which are known to increase the risk of bowel cancer, particularly consumption of red and processed meats, obesity, lack of exercise as well as alcohol and smoking.

Bowel cancer is now widely recognised as a disease that is linked to lifestyle factors. Multiple studies have identified that factors such as diet and exercise can account for up to a half of all cases. In particular obesity (specifically carrying weight around the middle) has been singled out as key.

It is not simply a case of telling someone to stop eating. We now know that on becoming overweight physiological changes take place in the body which mean that successful weight loss become increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

That's why Bowel & Cancer Research, with support from the Moulton Foundation, is supporting a first in human trial of a novel appetite suppressant to help individuals who are overweight, and therefore at increased risk of bowel cancer to reset their physiology by stimulating the production of key hormones known to regulate appetite. Read more about this study...