Each year, Movember brings attention to men’s health by encouraging men across the country to grow moustaches and raise awareness and funds for combatting men’s health issues. Unfortunately, in the UK, more than 50,000 men aged between 15 and 64 succumb to various diseases and conditions, including mental health issues leading to suicide as well as preventable diseases. Colorectal cancer, a disease previously associated with older individuals, is increasingly affecting younger men. What is behind the alarming rise of colorectal cancer among young men, and what are the main factors contributing to this trend?
Colorectal Cancer: Not Just an Older Man’s Disease
It’s a common misconception that colorectal cancer only affects older individuals. However, the truth is quite the opposite. Colorectal cancer has been on the rise among young adults for years. Medical experts, such as those at Yale Medicine, are urging people younger than 45, including college students, to consult their doctors if they experience suspicious symptoms like constipation, rectal bleeding, or sudden changes in bowel movements.
Bowel Cancer Statistics
Let’s take a closer look at some concerning statistics regarding bowel cancer:
- 55% of bowel cancer cases in the UK occur in men, compared to 45% in women.
- 7% of men will develop the disease, while in women, it’s 5%.
- Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, accounting for 13% of male cancers and 11% of female cancers.
Why Are Men More at Risk?
Several factors contribute to men’s increased risk of colorectal cancer:
- Health Neglect: Men tend to take less care of their health and weight compared to women, which can be a contributory factor.
- Abdominal Fat: Excess abdominal fat is a known risk factor for colon cancer as it can surround vital organs. It’s also linked to conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure—conditions more common in men.
- Cultural Factors: Historically, men have not always taken their health seriously, though this seems to be changing in recent years.
- Doctor Avoidance: Some men believe that visiting the doctor makes them appear weak or feel they are too busy. Additionally, they may be unaware of the impact of stress on their health.
- Unhealthy Diet: Men are more likely to consume an unhealthy diet with excessive red meat, refined fats, sugars, salt, and alcohol compared to women.
While exact causes are not fully determined, bowel cancer cases increased by almost a third in the UK between the mid-1970s and 2010, with another sharp rise in 2014.
The Importance of Bowel Cancer Screening
Bowel cancer can be insidious, often showing no symptoms. This is why bowel cancer screening is invaluable. In England, anyone registered with an NHS doctor will automatically join the bowel cancer screening program at the age of 60. This simple at-home test, received every two years, is essential because early detection greatly improves the chance of survival.
Reducing the Risk
There are lifestyle steps that can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer:
- Drinking less alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy balanced diet with limited red or processed meat
- Managing weight
- Regular exercise
Diagnostic Testing for Early Signs
For the most thorough diagnostic test for bowel cancer, consider a colonoscopy, which can detect even the earliest signs. This is especially important for men of any age who experience unusual bowel symptoms or have a family history of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is no longer confined to older age groups, and young men are increasingly at risk. It is, therefore, crucial to raise awareness and encourage men to prioritise their health, seek medical attention for unusual symptoms, and participate in bowel cancer screening. Early detection can lead to early treatment and a more positive prognosis.