The surge in bowel cancer mortality rates among individuals aged 25-49 in the European Union (EU) and the UK is closely linked to the prevalence of overweight and obesity, alongside alcohol consumption, a new study reveals.
Published in the esteemed cancer journal Annals of Oncology, the study offers projections for cancer mortality rates in the EU and UK for 2024. Notably, this marks the first instance of a projected increase in bowel cancer mortality rates among young adults in the EU, corroborating a trend initially observed in the UK in 2021.
Led by Carlo La Vecchia, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Milan, the study predicts a substantial rise in bowel cancer mortality rates among young adults in the UK, with an anticipated 26% increase in men and nearly 39% in women by 2024 compared to 2018. Similar upward trends are forecasted in Italy, Spain, Poland, and among German women.
Prof. La Vecchia attributes these trends to several key factors, including the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and associated health conditions such as diabetes. Additionally, he notes the escalation in heavy alcohol consumption across central and northern Europe and the UK, coupled with reduced physical activity, as contributing factors. Notably, countries with declining alcohol consumption, such as France and Italy, have not witnessed such significant rises in bowel cancer mortality rates.
In response to these findings, Prof. La Vecchia advocates for enhanced governmental policies promoting physical activity, obesity reduction, and alcohol consumption moderation. Furthermore, he suggests extending bowel cancer screening initiatives to younger age groups, starting at age 45, mirroring recent recommendations by the US Preventive Service Task Force.
The study’s comprehensive analysis of cancer mortality rates across the EU and UK also reveals promising trends in overall cancer mortality rates, driven by advancements in diagnosis and treatment. However, concerns persist regarding pancreatic cancer, where no improvements in mortality rates are predicted, with smoking, overweight, obesity, diabetes, and heavy alcohol consumption identified as contributing factors.
The study underscores the imperative of addressing tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption to mitigate cancer mortality rates, advocating for concerted efforts to narrow disparities in cancer diagnosis and treatment across Europe.