More and more adults under the age of 50 are getting colon cancer. This was the result of a study by the American Cancer Society published in the journal Gut . By contrast, the number of colorectal cancers had dropped for over-50s.

For some time, there has been evidence of rising colorectal cancer rates in adults under 50. "However, the previous studies on the subject are only concerned with individual countries or regions," said the epidemiologist and nutritionist Michael Hoffmeister of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, not himself the study was involved.

The study authors provided for the first time a global overview of the colorectal cancer rate in 20 to 49-year-olds as well as in adults aged 50 and over. In total, data from a total of 43 countries were included in the results.

Germans under the age of 50 are also becoming increasingly ill with colon cancer

In South Korea, between 2008 and 2019, an average of 12.9 out of every 100,000 residents under the age of 50 contracted each year. This places the country at the top of the incidence rates of younger adults. The city of Chennai has the fewest diseases in India with only 3.5 younger patients per 100 000 inhabitants. Germany is with 7.7 patients in the upper midfield.

However, the study director Rebecca Siegel pointed out that the risk of colon cancer in younger people is still lower than in older people. For example, the tumor rate for over 50-year-olds in Slovakia is 192.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Thus, Slovakia has the highest colorectal cancer rate in Ü50-year-olds. In contrast, the Indian city of Chennai has the least bowel cancer patients even in older adults.

Nevertheless, Michael Hoffmeister warns: "The numbers in younger adults are very worrying." According to the study, within a decade, the number of colorectal cancers in under-50s increased in 19 of the 36 countries studied. Interestingly, in nine of the 19 countries, the rate of colorectal cancer in older adults remained constant or even decreased. These are mainly industrial countries with comparatively high incomes, namely Australia, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Slovenia and the USA.

By contrast, in 14 of the 36 countries, colon cancer rates in adults under the age of 50 have remained stable over the years. In three countries, even fewer young people have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Finished products and fast foods as possible causes

Why younger adults are increasingly affected by colon cancer, you do not know exactly. The study authors suspect a connection with the increased consumption of fast food and finished products. So many other countries have adopted the Western lifestyle and nutritional style. Also suspected is the more frequent antibiotic treatment in children.

"Particularly plausible is among the discussed causes of obesity," said epidemiologist Hoffmeister. Nevertheless, this is still speculation. At the moment, however, well-founded assumptions are helpful in all directions because they could be used for further studies to identify the underlying factors and take action.

The decline in the rate of bowel cancer in adults over the age of 50 in many industrialized countries is due to Hoffmeister's improved provision. "The intestinal cancer screening, which is established in many countries for older adults, plays a major role in this decline," said Hoffmeister. In Germany, for example, for colonoscopy and stool examinations are called from the age of 50 years. As a result, cancer precursors could be detected early and treated, which in turn avoids colon cancer cases.

In most industrialized countries, screening is offered from the age of 50 to 60 years. "An advancement of the screening is intensively discussed internationally," said Hoffmeister. The authors of the current study recommend that physicians who are under 50 years old and have self-reported bowel cancer should use the established screening methods as a precautionary measure. This recommendation is already officially in many countries, such as in Germany.