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Bowel cancer rates double 1970s level

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The likelihood of developing bowel cancer is twice as high for British men today as it was in the mid-1970s, according to new research.

Men’s odds of getting the condition in their lifetime have risen from one in 29 to one in 15 over this time, Cancer Research UK has found. For women, this risk is up by a quarter over the same period, to one in 19 from one in 26.

Bowel cancer diagnosis levels for men were at 21,500 in 2008, compared to just 11,800 in 1975. For women, there were 17,400 new cases in comparison with 13,500 36 years ago.

Although the rate of the disease has risen since the mid-70s, survival rates have also gone up. Half of all patients diagnosed have lived on for at least 10 years - twice as many as would have lived for so long more than 35 years ago.

Professor Peter Sasieni, Cancer Research UK epidemiologist, wrote in the British Journal of Cancer: “As people are living longer, the numbers getting cancer have increased and the lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer has gone up.

“For some cancers - including bowel - the risk of cancer in the next 10 years will be much higher for people in their 50s and 60s. But if someone reaches their late 70s and hasn’t yet developed the disease then their risk of getting it during the rest of their lifetime is lower than their risk at birth.”

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