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Increase in bowel cancer cases 'no surprise'

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.

But 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.

It's important to find out what's behind the rise and what we can do about it.

– Professor Matthew Seymour, director of the National Cancer Research Network

Bowel cancer survival rates have doubled over the last 40 years and our work is at the heart of this progress.

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.

And many of the risk factors for bowel cancer are well understood: diet, weight, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and smoking.

– Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK

Bowel cancer statistics released by Bobby Moore Fund

In 1993, England football legend Bobby Moore died of bowel cancer, the disease that claims the lives of 44 people every day in the UK.

After his death, his widow Stephanie Moore MBE, set up the Bobby Moore Fund in partnership with Cancer Research UK.

World Cup hero Bobby Moore. Credit: PA

The aims of the fund is to raise funds for world class research into bowel cancer and also raise awareness of the disease.

Since 1993, the Bobby Moore Fund has raised over £14 million, which has funded 37 research fellowships.

The new Make Bobby Proud campaign will encourage people to spread the word about the disease and raise funds.

It is especially aimed at the football community, as men are more likely to suffer from bowel cancer.

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Bowel cancer statistics

  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK after lung cancer.
  • Incidence of the disease has climbed from 45 cases per 100,000 men in 1975-77 to 58 cases in 2008-10, a rise of 29%, said the report.
  • Over the same time period, rates for women have increased only slightly from 35 to 37 per 100,000.
  • The biggest rise has been seen among people aged in their 60s and 70s, who now account for 23,000 new cases each year.
  • However, bowel cancer survival is improving, with half of all patients living for at least 10 years after being diagnosed.
  • The figures have been released to mark bowel cancer awareness month and the launch of a new campaign by the Bobby Moore Fund.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel.

Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon cancer or rectal cancer.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include blood in your stools (faeces), an unexplained change in your bowel habits, such as prolonged diarrhoea or constipation, and unexplained weight loss.

Cancer can sometimes start in the small bowel (small intestine), but small bowel cancer is much rarer than large bowel cancer.

Source: Cancer Research UK

Bowel cancer rates in men soar by 30 per cent

Bowel cancer rates among men have soared by more than a quarter in the last 35 years, new figures have shown.

Bowel cancer rates among men have soared by more than a quarter. Credit: PA

In contrast, women have experienced a rise of only 6%, according to the report from Cancer Research UK.

Increasing rates of bowel cancer may be linked to obesity and diets high in red and processed meat and low in fibre.

Another key factor is the increasing age of the population. But why there should be such a stark difference between men and women is still unknown.

Glass of red wine a day 'may halt bowel cancer'

One large glass of wine a day could contain enough of a tumour-fighting compound to prevent bowel cancer, research suggests.

One glass of wine a day could halt bowel cancer, researchers have said Credit: PA Wire

The plant chemical, resveratrol, is found in the skins of grapes and concentrated in red wine.

Scientists have long known that resveratrol has anti-cancer properties, as well as effects that might benefit diabetes and heart disease patients.

But a question mark remains over what dose of the compound it is best to take.

The new research suggests that for fighting bowel cancer it is very small - around five milligrams per day.

That is about the amount of resveratrol typically found in one large glass of red wine, or two small glasses.

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Iron 'may raise bowel cancer risk'

High levels of iron may be one reason why eating red meat raises the risk of bowel cancer, a study has shown.

Iron may interact with a faulty gene in the gut to trigger cancer, scientists at Cancer Research UK said.

Red meat contains large amounts of iron and is also known to increase the likelihood of bowel cancer.

Red meat contains large amounts of iron Credit: PA

In studies of mice, researchers found that susceptibility to bowel cancer was strongly influenced both by iron and a gene called APC.

When the APC gene was faulty, mice with a high iron intake were two to three times more likely to develop the disease.

The discovery could lead to new cancer treatments that target iron in the bowel.

Questions remain over aspirin side effects

The study looked at 4,500 bowel cancer patients in the Netherlands Credit: Stephen Kelly/PA Wire

Experts say more research is needed into the side effects of aspirin before it is officially recommended for treating cancer.

A Dutch study published today in the British Journal of Cancer suggests the drug can help bowel cancer patients.

"This latest study adds to the growing evidence about the benefits of aspirin," said Sarah Lyness of Cancer Research UK.

"But we are not yet at the point where we would recommend people start taking aspirin to reduce their chances of developing cancer.

"There are still questions we need to answer about the side effects. Aspirin can increase the chances of complications before surgery.

"Anyone thinking of taking aspirin to cut their risk of cancer should talk to their GP first."

Elderly could benefit from taking aspirin for cancer

Patients too old or too unwell to have chemotherapy could benefit from taking aspirin to treat bowel cancer, according to researchers at the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.

The team is planning a randomised controlled trial later this year targeting the over-70s population.

"Our findings could have profound clinical implications. We showed the therapeutic effect of a widely available, familiar drug that costs mere pennies per day.

"It's possible that some older people may have other health problems which mean that they are not well enough to have chemotherapy.

"Bowel cancer is more common in older people so these results could be a big advance in treatment of the disease, particularly in this group."

– Lead researcher Dr Gerrit-Jan Liefers
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