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Bowel cancer deaths could increase by 2,500 per year by 2040

Sophie Wedekind
by Sophie Wedekind | Analysis

4 April 2024

2 comments 2 comments

Doctor looking at a patient's bowel screening scan


The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer will rise by around a tenth by 2040, according to new analysis released by the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK. 

Researchers projected that if current trends continue, bowel cancer cases will rise from 42,800 to 47,700 each year. This means there could be an average of around 2,500 more deaths from bowel cancer per year. 

Why are the numbers increasing?

The UK’s growing and ageing population is behind this increase in numbers – as older people are more likely to get cancer. This means there will be more people with a greater chance of developing cancer, more cancer survivors requiring follow-up care and more patients with complex needs.   

These figures are a stark reminder of the ongoing need for life-saving cancer research and the importance of raising awareness around the signs and symptoms of the disease.  

Continuing Deborah’s legacy

Dame Deborah James was a passionate advocate for this, leading to the Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK being set up in May 2022 to continue her incredible legacy. Thanks to the generosity of the public and partners, the Fund has raised £13m to help combat bowel cancer and has now committed £10m to support seven pioneering projects that are helping to give more people more time with the people they love.   

In March 2024, the Fund announced it would be pledging £5m over the next five years to help support the work of the Cancer Grand Challenges team PROSPECT looking into early-onset bowel cancer (diagnosed in people under 50).   

“Deborah improved the lives of so many when she was alive and, thanks to the ongoing generosity of the Fund’s supporters, she will keep making a difference to the lives of many more for years to come. That is a true legacy,” said Heather James, Deborah’s mum.  

“And as growing numbers of people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in the years to come, continuing her work remains every bit as vital today as when she was first diagnosed.”   

Other projects funded include, exploring the use of artificial intelligence, blood tests to detect the earliest signs of cancer and understanding how bowel cancer spreads and a new, advanced Interventional radiology X-Ray machine at The Royal Marsden 

Ellie wearing Dame Deborah James' Charity T-Shirt which says 'Rebellious Hope'

Ellie’s story

“You’re never too young to have cancer and to appreciate life.”    

Ellie was just 25 when she received her stage 4 bowel cancer diagnosis. She started suffering with ‘extreme pain’ in her abdomen but thought ‘nothing of it’ and instead suspected she had just another urinary tract infection (UTI). When the pain began to worsen, she went to see her GP.  

No infection was detected but when a blood test showed that her inflammatory markers were ‘extremely high’, she was referred to have an ultrasound in hospital.

They thought she may have an ovarian cyst at first, this was then diagnosed as potential pelvic inflammatory disease and a biopsy was done. Following further scans, in February 2022, Ellie received the last thing she expected being so young – her cancer diagnosis. She underwent surgery, rounds of chemotherapy and then more surgery before being told that there was no more evidence of the disease in August 2022.  

Explaining how Deborah inspired her, Ellie said: “I remember being in the midst of my treatment whilst following Deborah’s story. Cancer for me felt like this new and scary world that I’d been plunged head-first into. It was scary and unfamiliar to me, filled with doctors, hospital gowns and a cocktail of tests and medication.  

“It was Deborah that made all of this ‘new world’ feel human. Deborah, to me, was proof that you really can live with cancer. She was this beacon of hope who was truly empowering and inspiring, this positivity continues to shine with her legacy.” 

Ways to support

The Bowelbabe Fund for Cancer Research UK recently partnered with Omaze which is running a Million Pound House Draw where one person is guaranteed to win a luxurious house in Cheshire worth £3.5m and £100,000 in cash. Omaze has underwritten a minimum donation of £1m to the Fund, which could help researchers find new treatments so that more people can survive bowel cancer.    

To help support the Fund in its mission, people can take part in a new fundraising challenge, Jog 31, inspired by Deborah’s love of running, which challenges participants to jog 31 miles during the 31 days in May and raise money. You can also enter the Omaze prize draw, or donate directly at Bowelbabe.org.  

    Comments

  • David Thomson
    17 April 2024

    Whilst I see the point of Mr. McBride’s suggested rewording, I believe the ‘will rise…’ wording will have a greater effect on readers. Your article was balanced, and I was alarmed by the evidence for the onset of bowel cancer from your early fifties.

  • George MacBride
    17 April 2024

    Much as I respect the care with which Cancer Research UK reports the findings of research, I think that on this occasion the phrase ‘The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer will rise by around a tenth by 2040’ would have been better expressed as ‘The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer is likely to rise by around a tenth by 2040’ or ‘The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer may well rise by around a tenth by 2040’. Extrapolation from current trends is always subject some error which may be unforeseeable.

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    Comments

  • David Thomson
    17 April 2024

    Whilst I see the point of Mr. McBride’s suggested rewording, I believe the ‘will rise…’ wording will have a greater effect on readers. Your article was balanced, and I was alarmed by the evidence for the onset of bowel cancer from your early fifties.

  • George MacBride
    17 April 2024

    Much as I respect the care with which Cancer Research UK reports the findings of research, I think that on this occasion the phrase ‘The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer will rise by around a tenth by 2040’ would have been better expressed as ‘The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer is likely to rise by around a tenth by 2040’ or ‘The number of people in the UK diagnosed with bowel cancer may well rise by around a tenth by 2040’. Extrapolation from current trends is always subject some error which may be unforeseeable.

Tell us what you think

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read our comment policy.