Colorectal cancers predicted to rise by 45% by 2020

Increase due to growing ageing population

The number of Irish people suffering from colorectal cancer is predicted to increase by 34 per cent in women and 45 per cent in men by 2020, according to a report published today by the National Cancer Registry

The number of Irish people suffering from colorectal cancer is predicted to increase by 34 per cent in women and 45 per cent in men by 2020, according to a report published today by the National Cancer Registry

Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 16:36

The number of Irish people suffering from colorectal cancer is predicted to increase by 34 per cent in women and 45 per cent in men by 2020, according to a report published today by the National Cancer Registry.

The report “Colorectal Cancer Incidence, Mortality, Treatment and Survival in Ireland: 1994 – 2010” found the number of male cases increased from 983 in 1994 to 1343 in 2010 and the number of female cases increased from 769 in 1994 to 955 in 2010.

The increase in cases is due to a growing ageing population and will present a challenge to the health service in years to come. The vast majority of colorectal cancers present in women and men over the age of 65.

67 per cent of women and 69 per cent of men diagnosed with colorectal cancer were aged over 65 while 14 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men presented aged less than 55. 22 per cent of colorectal tumours in women occurred in the rectum compared with 30 per cent in men. The ratio of male to female colorectal cancer is approximately 13:10.

11 per cent in women and 14 per cent in men of all invasive cancers, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, were colorectal cancers in 2007-2009 making it the second most common tumour diagnosed in women after breast cancer and in men after prostate cancer.

It represents the third leading cause of cancer death in women after lung and breast cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer.

Around 950 woman and 1330 men were diagnosed with colorectal cancer annually during 2007-2009. 424 women and 550 men died from the disease in Ireland in 2008.

The report finds, however, that the survival rate for men in particular is significantly improving. It puts this down to greater uptake of treatment and earlier diagnosis. For women, the survival rate for colon cancer showed only a modest improvement and no improvement for rectal cancer.

Surgery is the first line treatment for the cancer. While up to 10 per cent of colorectal cancers are hereditary, lifestyle factors play a significant role in minimising the risk of developing the disease.

Smoking increases the risk of developing colon, but not rectal, cancer. Alcohol increases the risk of both as does being overweight, not taking exercise and eating a lot of processed and red meats.

Eating fruit, fish, non-starchy vegetables, dairy products and foods containing dietary fibre or the B vitamin folate can lower risk.

The report says regular use of aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may reduce colorectal cancer risk by up to half. Risk is also lower in women taking hormone replacement therapy and is likely also to be lower in those who have taken oral contraceptives.

People who have a first degree relative with colorectal cancer have around a two-fold increased risk of developing the disease themselves.

Incidences of the disease are higher than the national average for both men and women in Co Cork and lower than the national average in Co Kildare for women and in counties Kilkenny and Meath for men.

Ireland has a higher incidence of colorectal cancer than the EU average. In 2008, the highest incidence of the disease for men was in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The lowest incidence, for both sexes, was in Cyprus and Greece.

Donal Buggy, head of services at the Irish Cancer Society, said given the percentage of Irish population over the age of 65 years will significantly increase during the period 2010-2020, it was reasonable for the National Cancer Registry to project an increase in the number of colorectal cancers.

“We are fortunate that BowelScreen the new government funded national bowel screening programme has commenced. Bowel screening aims to find bowel cancer at an early stage in people who have no symptoms. The service will initially offer free bowel screening to men and women aged 60 to 69 years and will over time be offered to all men and women aged 55 to 74,” he said.

Anyone worried about bowel cancer can speak to an Irish Cancer Society specialist cancer nurse on Freefone 1800 200 700 or visit www.cancer.ie