Bowel cancer is now ranked the third most common in England, placing higher than lung cancer for the first time since records began in 1995, new figures from the NHS has identified.

Latest data shows that 41,596 cases of bowel cancer were record in England in 2021, compared to 39,635 cases of lung cancer.

NHS statistics reveal that breast cancer ranks as the most common type, while prostate tumours are the second most common.

Approximately 16,000 people die from bowel cancer every year in the UK, making it the second deadliest form of the disease. Lung cancer is the deadliest, killing almost 35,000 people in the UK every year.

According to the NHS, the national awareness campaign led by the late Dame Deborah James has boosted the number of bowel cancer diagnoses.

Health experts believe that the rise of bowel cancer cases is down to unhealthy diets and lifestyles.

Lynn Dunne, Bowel Research UK charity head, said: “It is concerning that bowel cancer cases are now more prevalent than lung cancer.

“There are indications of a rise in the number of people under 60 being detected and treated for bowel cancer.”

She added: “This is possibly related to lifestyle issues such as poor diet and obesity and smoking are also known to play a role.”

Bowel cancer cases increased by 10.4% between 2019 and 2021. This compares to overall cancer cases rising by only one per cent during the same time.

Dame Deborah James died last year at the age of 40 after a seven-year long battle with bowel cancer.

Following her diagnosis in 2016, Dame Debs started raising awareness about the condition and urged people to look at their poo for signs of the disease.

A month before and after her death in June 2022, 170,500 people were referred for suspected colorectal cancers, 30,000 higher than the same time period in 2021.

Professor Peter Johnson, from NHS England, said: “We are forever grateful to people like Deborah James, who campaigned tirelessly to raise the profile of bowel cancer and the importance of early detection, and whose efforts have undoubtedly saved lives.”

As a result of her campaigning, NHS bowel cancer screening is now being offered to younger age groups, with easy-to-use home tests being sent to all 50 to 74-year-olds by 2025.

Bowel cancer screening in England was originally available for people aged 60 and older, but an individual’s risk of developing the disease significantly increases from the age of 50.

Dr Lisa Wilde, from Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Screening is one of the best ways to detect the disease early when treatment is more likely to be successful. We hope to see a continued focus from the NHS on earlier diagnosis.”

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

The five most common symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • A pain or a lump in your tummy
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding from the bum
  • Blood in your poo
  • A change in your normal toilet habits, such as going more frequently for example

Other symptoms of the disease include feeling bloated, feeling like you need to strain after you’ve been to the loo, constipation, unable to pass wind, being sick and gripping pains in the abdomen.

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