The 5 early signs of lethal bowel cancer as cases DOUBLE in young people

BOWEL cancer is the second most lethal cancer in the UK, killing 16,000 people every year.

Though it’s often thought of as an older person’s disease, stats show that’s becoming increasingly far from the truth.

A new study has indicated that bowel cancer (colon cancer) cases have doubled in young people over the past three decades.

What’s more, they are often diagnosed later as a result of lack of awareness around symptoms, which include blood in poo or a change in bowel habits.

NHS screening tests, which spot the disease early, are restricted to older people.

That's why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign in April 2018 – to call on the Government to lower the screening age from 60 to 50, which could save 4,500 lives annually.

In the summer of 2018, health secretary Matt Hancock announced screening in England would be lowered to 50 – marking a victory for The Sun and campaigners.

In the new study, researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute found that Americans in their 20s and 30s are seeing the steepest rise in distant-stage colon cancer.

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This late stage form of the disease means tumours that have spread to other sites in the body.

Among people in their 20s, late-stage cases increased from 0.21 per 100,000 to 0.33 per 100,000.

For people in their 30s, cases rose from 1.14 per 100,000 to 1.9 per 100,000.

When it came to colon cancer specifically, people in their 30s showed the steepest increase in late-stage cancers over time, at 49 per cent. 

Those in their 20s had the sharpest rise in advanced rectal cancer, 133 per cent.

Black and Hispanic Americans in their 20s had a particularly high proportion of late-stage cancer.

While the study was conducted in the US, similar trends are playing out globally.

Bowel Cancer UK says: “Every year over 2,500 people under the age of 50 are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. 

“While this accounts for only six per cent of those diagnosed with the disease, the number is increasing.”

Incidents of colon and rectal cancer are going up by 1.8 and 1.4 per cent, respectively, every year in the UK, according to a 2019 study published in The Lancet.

Another study in the same year found the number of people in their 30s struck by the disease was increasing by up to 7.3 per cent each year between 2005 and 2014.

It's the equivalent of around 267 more cases per year in 2014 compared to 2005, experts said.  

It’s not clear what’s behind the growing trend, but experts have theorised it could be partly due to obesity, diabetes and the influence of modern diet on gut bacteria. 

The NHS estimates that around one in 20 people will get bowel cancer during their lifetime. 

Typically, the disease is found in people over the age of 60 – but you're never too young to get it.

Deborah James has chronicled her battle with bowel cancer on The Sun since she was diagnosed at the age of 35.

The now 40-year-old got told she had an advanced stage of the disease after noticing symptoms over a year, including going to the toilet more and fatigue.


The five red-flag symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  1. Bleeding from the back passage, or blood in your poo
  2. A change in your normal toilet habits – going more frequently for example
  3. Pain or a lump in your tummy
  4. Extreme tiredness
  5. Losing weight

Other signs of bowel cancer include:

  • Gripping pains in the abdomen
  • Feeling bloated
  • Constipation and being unable to pass wind
  • Being sick
  • Feeling like you need to strain – like doing a number two – but after you've been to the loo

The NHS says you should see a GP if these sort of symptoms have been present for three weeks or more. 

Most people with symptoms of bowel cancer don’t actually have the disease.

It can instead be piles or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for example.

The NHS says symptoms should be “taken more seriously as you get older”.

But Bowel Cancer UK argues that not enough young people even know the signs of the disease.

And when they do go to their GP, with one in three delaying making an appointment for three months, the charity says they should be referred for further tests without unnecessary delays.

Its campaign Never Too Young reveals four in ten people had to visit their GP three or more times before being referred for further tests.

And half of younger people surveyed didn’t know that they could develop the disease before their diagnosis.

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