- Colorectal cancer deaths among young people in Europe are predicted to increase by about a third in 2024.
- The study was conducted in the EU and the UK, but the findings mirror what is also happening in the US.
- Obesity, low levels of physical activity and alcohol may be partly to blame, scientists say.
More younger people are expected to die from colon cancer in Europe this year than ever before, according to the authors of a new study, who say alcohol, low activity levels and obesity may be partly to blame.
Cancer researchers from the University of Milan, Italy, have predicted that deaths from colon cancer among people aged 25 to 49 will increase significantly in the EU and UK this year compared to 2018.
The study echoes what’s happening in the US, a cancer researcher told Business Insider.
Christina Annunziata, senior vice president for extramural discovery at the American Cancer Society, said the findings were similar to those published at her organization Cancer statistics report 2024 posted on January 17th.
The report found that colon cancer, also called colon, bowel or rectal cancer depending on where it started, is the leading cause of cancer death for men under 50 in the US and the second deadliest cancer for women in the same age group. The numbers have been increasing since the late 90s, and actor The death of Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer in 2020 shed light on the matter.
“The percentages are a little different, but I think the trend is similar, and I think the comments about obesity, diet and alcohol use are certainly valid,” Annunziata said.
According to study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology on January 29, the biggest rise among the countries studied is set to be in the UK, where the authors predict deaths will increase by 26% in younger men and almost 39% in younger women compared with six. years ago. Smaller increases were also forecast in Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland.
To make the estimates, the researchers analyzed data on deaths from the World Health Organization and Eurostat databases from 1970 to 2018 for most of the 27 EU member states and the United Kingdom. They have published these predictions every year for the past 14 years.
Although they estimated that colon cancer deaths will decline overall in 2024, this is the first year they predict an increase in colon cancer deaths among younger people.
Colon cancer is usually more deadly in younger people
Colon cancer in younger people tends to be more aggressive, with lower survival rates, compared to colon cancer diagnosed in older people, Professor Carlo La Vecchia, lead author of the study, said in a press release.
He believes the main factors contributing to rising colon cancer rates in younger people are obesity and health conditions associated with being overweight, such as high blood sugar and diabetes.
More people drinking alcohol, which has been linked to early colon cancer, and less physical activity could also be factors, the study said.
“Countries where there has been a reduction in alcohol consumption, such as France and Italy, have not experienced such significant increases in death rates from this cancer,” said La Vecchia.
He said death rates tended to fall in countries with better access to screening and early diagnosis. “However, the increased mortality among young people is a cause for concern,” he said.
Commenting on the increase in younger people getting colon cancer, Dr. Kimmie Ng, director of the Young Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said NBC last month: “What we suspect might be happening is that any combination of environmental factors is responsible for this, that it’s probably changing our microbiomes or our immune systems, leading us to become more susceptible to these cancers at a younger age.”
The authors of the study recommended that governments consider strengthening policies that encourage people to be more active and drink less alcohol, as well as provide early cancer screening and help overweight or obese people lose weight.
Annunziata said these recommendations should apply to the US as well.
“The first thing is that people should try to maintain a healthy weight, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in red meat, regular exercise and should limit their use of tobacco and alcohol,” he said.