In Europe, a concerning trend is emerging as death rates from colorectal cancer among individuals aged 25 to 49 in the European Union (EU) and Great Britain are on the rise, contrary to the overall decreasing trend. A research team led by Carlo La Vecchia from the University of Milan, as reported in the journal "Annals of Oncology," attributes this surge to a higher prevalence of overweight individuals in this age group. Factors such as increased alcohol consumption and reduced physical activity also contribute to this disturbing trend.
Researchers emphasize that colon cancer at a younger age tends to be more aggressive, with lower survival rates compared to older individuals. Considering these findings, there is a call to extend colon cancer screening to individuals as young as 45. In Germany, current guidelines allow women aged 55 and over and men aged 50 and over to undergo a colonoscopy through statutory health insurance.
Colon cancer typically originates from growths in the intestinal wall, which can be detected and removed during a colonoscopy before progressing to cancer. According to the German Cancer Research Center, over 55,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year in Germany, with more than 20,000 succumbing to the disease.
The research team's projections for 2024 indicate a significant increase in death rates from colon cancer, especially in Great Britain, with a projected rise of 26 percent in men and nearly 39 percent in women aged 25 to 49 compared to 2018. Similar increases are anticipated in Italy, Spain, Poland, and among young women in Germany, although absolute numbers remain relatively low.
While the rise in death rates among young individuals is alarming, researchers point out that, overall, death rates from colon cancer are declining across all age groups, considering the age structure of the population. In Germany, the age-standardized death rate for colon cancer decreased by 11.55 percent for men and 7.99 percent for women compared to 2019.
Despite positive trends in overall cancer death rates, the number of cancer-related deaths is increasing due to the aging population. Forecasts suggest that around 1.27 million people in the EU will die from cancer in the current year. Carlo La Vecchia underscores the need for political measures to address this issue, emphasizing the promotion of physical activity and the reduction of alcohol consumption.
The study, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) spanning from 1970 to the most recent available data (2017-2021), marks the 14th consecutive year that the research team has published such forecasts.
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