Growing Numbers of Under 50s Diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in the UK

22nd May 2019

Recent research studies published in Gut and The Lancet show a rise in the number of people diagnosed with bowel cancer under the age of 50 across the globe, including the UK.

The same research also highlights that in those aged between 50-74, the incidence of bowel cancer has decreased – most likely due to bowel cancer screening. The research outcomes only highlight the need for an optimal, earlier screening programme in the UK.

Graphic displaying polyps developing into cancer. Most polyps remain benign throughout life but about one in ten will turn into a cancer. We know that removing benign polyps can prevent cancer developing later.

Lynch Syndrome

Lynch syndrome is an inherited cancer syndrome. This genetic abnormality is a condition that increases the lifetime risk of bowel cancer by up to 80%. This can be passed down between generations of families. Those under the age of 50 diagnosed with bowel cancer (or if cancer is very common in the family)  may be tested for Lynch syndrome.

The NICE Guidelines (the body that provides clinical guidance to NHS practitioners) recommend that everyone diagnosed with bowel cancer be tested for Lynch syndrome. If you have bowel cancer and have not yet been tested for Lynch syndrome, ask your GP for a referral.

Research carried out by Bowel Cancer UK found that 30% of UK hospitals were not routinely testing people who met the criteria to for Lynch syndrome. It is recommended that those with Lynch syndrome have a colonoscopy ever 18 months to two years. 78% of those in their patient experience report had experienced delays of more than 6 weeks while attending routine appointments.


Now, future research studies are needed to establish the causes of this rising incidence to enable the development of potential strategies to stride for earlier detection of cases.

Guts UK are the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system – from top to tail. At current, we are funding Professor Colin Rees’ COLO-COHORT Study, which aims to develop a ‘risk stratification tool’ to determine those that are at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer or polyps. This tool will be able to be used in the future to work out which patients need to be referred to endoscopy for investigation. To read on, click here.


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