Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the second most lethal cancer after lung cancer, with the highest incidence rates being reported in developed countries. Only half of the newly diagnosed cases survive more than five years. But with routine screening for the disease in many parts of the world, as well as the development of newer and less-invasive technologies to replace highly invasive colonoscopy, early detection is feasible. In addition, there is mounting evidence that bowel cancer can be prevented and treated by a combination of drugs, nutritional supplements, diet and exercise. With the possible improvement in therapy, more people will survive bowel cancer in the future.  

Bowel cancer is a significant health burden and GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that there are currently one million diagnosed incident cases of bowel cancer in the eight major markets (8MM: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan and urban China). This will increase to 1.3 million diagnosed incident cases in the 8MM in 2031. Japan had the highest rate of incidence in both men and women in the 8MM. The increase in the number of cases can be attributed to the projected increase in the population in the respective markets, as the incidence rates for this cancer have remained largely unchanged over the previous decade, based on historical data analysed by GlobalData.

GlobalData epidemiologists also forecast that 80% of new cases will survive more than one year, but that this will drop to 50% after five years of diagnosis. The majority of bowel cancer cases are still diagnosed at later stages, which results in poorer survival rates than when cases are diagnosed in earlier stages.

Recent advances in early-detection screening and treatment options are a positive development. Genetic testing and better documentation of family history can enable those with a hereditary predisposition to take preventive measures. Public health awareness on diet and lifestyle choices is important as alcohol consumption, obesity and red processed meat are major risk factors for bowel cancer. Improvement in the targeted therapy will also help increase the five-year survival, which currently hovers around 40–60% in the 8MM.    

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By GlobalData