Male bowel cancer rates have soared by almost 30% in 35 years

A study conducted by Cancer Research UK suggests that male bowel cancer rates have soared by over a quarter in the past 35 years, with just a 6% increase for women in the same period according to the charity.

New figures have emerged as we begin bowel cancer awareness month, and have coincided with the launch of a new campaign by the Bobby Moore Fund called ‘Make Bobby Proud’. The Fund is a partnership with Cancer Research UK that first began back in 1993 by Stephanie Moore MBE, the widow of the 1966 World Cup winning England captain Bobby Moore, and has raised an incredible £18.8 million since its inception.

The England legend tragically passed away in 1993 after a hard fought battle against the disease. Not only helping to raise funds for advanced research into bowel cancer, the Fund also looks to raise awareness of a disease that claims the lives of 44 people in the UK each day.

The new research shows that cases of bowel cancer in men have risen from 45 per 100,000 in 1975-77 to 58 per 100,000 in 2008-10 – representing an increase of 29%.

However, during the same time frame for women, there was a lower incidence of the disease with 35 per 100,000 increasing to 37 per 100,000.

Biggest increases of bowel cancer were seen in people aged in their 60s and 70s, with approximately 23,000 new cases being diagnosed each year.

There is some positive news however; it appears that bowel cancer survival rates are improving with evidence suggesting that half of all patients living for at least a decade after their diagnosis.

Professor Matthew Seymour, from the University of Leeds, who is director of the National Cancer Research Network, said: “We know the risk of bowel cancer increases as we get older and, since we’re all living longer, it’s no surprise to see that the number of people getting the disease is rising. But when we look at these figures and take people’s age into account, we still see that the risk of bowel cancer has gone up in men in the last 35 years. It’s important to find out what’s behind the rise and what we can do about it. The good news is that, thanks to research, we have seen huge improvements in bowel cancer survival over the last 40 years. It’s this research that’s led to better drugs to treat the disease, improved surgical techniques, the use of more radiotherapy and the introduction of bowel screening to spot the disease earlier, when it is most effectively treated.”

Mrs Moore added: “It’s good to see that despite the rise in incidence, bowel cancer survival is improving. However, it’s vital we continue to fund research to fight this disease as these new statistics show. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, after lung cancer. Finding a way to beat bowel cancer has been my goal for the past two decades and my hope is that by increasing awareness and helping to fund Cancer Research UK’s vital research, many more lives can be saved from this terrible disease in the future.”

Bowel cancer is also sometimes referred to as rectal, colorectal or colon cancer, depending on where the cancer begins. It is the third most common type of cancer within England and in 2009 alone, it was reported there were 41,142 new cases of bowel cancer. Of these new cases, 18,431 were diagnosed in women and 22,711 cases were diagnosed in men. It is uncommon for those under the age of 40 to develop the cancer, with around 85% of new cases being diagnosed in people over the age of 65.

Factors that increase the risk of bowel cancer include: having an inactive lifestyle, smoking, heavy alcohol intake (over 4 units a day) and obesity. In addition, others at risk are those with a high intake of processed foods, red meat, low-fibre foods and high-fat foods.

The cancer can be sometimes difficult to ascertain and the symptoms are sometimes similar to other less life-threatening conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. However, if you experience symptoms for longer than a few weeks, it is recommended you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Symptoms include: Blood in your faeces, the appearance of mucus in the faeces, inexplicable weight loss, persistent abdominal pain lasting longer than two weeks, severe constipation or diarrhoea lasting longer than two weeks and tiredness as a result of becoming anaemic from microscopic bleeding from the bowel.

If you have any of these symptoms, Medical Specialists Pharmacy advise that you visit your GP immediately. Your GP may want to check for bowel cancer by conducting a rectal examination to check for any abnormal changes at the lower end of the bowel. Another test your GP may want to refer you to is one called ‘faecal occult bloods’ (FOBs). Here, many samples of your faeces are scanned for any possible microscopic amounts of blood lost from a tumour. If a diagnosis is made, a ‘Dukes’ staging’ is given to the cancer to determine how it is likely to progress or conclude which is the best course of treatment to go for the patient.

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