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Study highlights the impacts of New Zealand’s high bowel cancer rate

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Bowel cancer has risen significantly in young people over the past two decades a New Zealand study has revealed.

Dr Jamish Gandhi, currently working as a surgeon at the Royal Adelaide Hospital but formerly based in New Zealand, has presented his findings to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Annual Scientific Conference in Adelaide this week.

Data from the study was obtained from the National Cancer Registry and linked to population data from 1995 to 2012.

The incidence rates for bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer and covering all cancers of the colon, rectum and large bowel) were categorised by age, gender and location.

The findings showed that the incidence had risen in people aged under 50 years across the various types of bowel cancers, and in both males and females.

"We found that among patients aged under 50 years, the incidence of distal colonic cancer in men increased by 14 per cent per decade; the incidence of rectal cancer in men increased by 18 per cent and in women by 13 per cent, per decade, " Dr Gandhi said.

"There were reductions in bowel cancer rates in patients between the ages of 50-79 across certain cancers, however the incidence rate continued to grow once again once people turned 80."

Dr Gandhi said that the growing rate of bowel cancer among younger people observed was concerning, and warranted increased attention and investigation.

"Increasing age is noted as a risk cancer for bowel cancer; however we should not be complacent about the risk of bowel cancer just because someone is below the age of 50.

"There are several other risk factors related to family history and lifestyle that may also contribute to a person developing these cancers. People need to be aware of what those risk factors are, what signs they should be looking out for, and also what lifestyle changes they can implement to lower their risk."

"Early detection is critical. If discovered early the survival rate from bowel cancer is actually quite high. However, the chance of survival is dramatically reduced the longer it remains undetected."

New Zealand already has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. According to the Ministry of Health approximately 3000 new cases are diagnosed each year and 1200 people die from the disease.

Since late 2011 the New Zealand Government has offered screening to eligible residents in the Waitemata District Health Board area as part of a pilot program. A National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) will be progressively rolled out across the country from 2018.

While Dr Gandhi said he supported the decision by the New Zealand Government he hoped his study and other evidence would lead to enhanced screening programs in the future.

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