Bowel cancer rates among men have risen by nearly 30% over the last 35 years, while women have seen an increase of just 6% according to a new report.
Overall the rates in men have climbed from 45 cases in 100,000 men in 1975-77 to 58 cases in 2008-10, but in women the number of cases has only increased slightly, from 35 to 37 per 100,000 in the same time period.
The largest rise in those diagnosed was among people in their 60s and 70s, the report from Cancer Research UK found.
“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,” said Professor Matthew Seymour, professor of gastrointestinal cancer medicine at the University of Leeds.
Professor Seymour, who is also director of the National Cancer Research Network said: “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.”
Despite the rise in incidence, the report found that bowel cancer survival is improving year on year.
Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK believes this is because of the work the charity is doing.
She said: “Our researchers have played a starring role in finding new ways to diagnose and treat bowel cancer – detecting the disease early is helping to save thousands of lives.
“The national bowel screening programme has been important in picking up cancer in its earlier stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful.”
Diet, weight, physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking are well known to be risk factors for bowel cancer, the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK.
The report was released as part of an awareness campaign for bowel cancer awareness month (April).