APR 05, 2016 6:44 AM PDT

Bowel Cancer Rates Tied to Economic Prosperity

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
Study links economic development to rising rates of bowel cancer

Economic prosperity is the goal of every nation. But there’s a health cost associated with the increased development. A recent study found that rates of colorectal cancers positively correlated with a country’s level of economic status. In not so many words, people in more developed countries have a higher risk of having colorectal cancer.
 
Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or bowel cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer type in the world. The cancer usually begins as small, benign lumps of cells that form polyps in the colon. Without proper removal, these polyps can turn cancerous and cause symptoms such as abdomen pain, rectal bleeding, weakness, and fatigue. According to their report, the incidence of colorectal cancer is “expected to increase by 60% to more than 2.2?million new cases and 1.1?million deaths by 2030.”
 
 
 
Not unlike some other cancers, the risks of colorectal cancer can be affected by lifestyle influences. Specifically, nutrition-poor diets, smoking, inactivity, and excessive consumption of alcohol all increase the risks for developing this cancer.
 
As such, researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer sought to find a pattern that would explain the rise of colorectal cancer around the globe. The team collected cancer data from publically available databases for 37 countries from GLOBOCAN, the Cancer Incidence in Five Continents (CI5) volumes I–X, and the World Health Organization mortality database. They also analyzed rates of colorectal cancer across all levels of the Human Development Index (HDI) in 184 countries.
 
The team found up to 10-fold difference in colorectal incidence and mortality rates worldwide. Moreover, countries with the higher HDI had increased rates of colorectal cancer. Alarmingly, countries on the economic climb are experiencing a rise in colorectal cancer rates, linking economic growth as a culprit. "Decades ago you didn't see so much of it in low-income countries, there were more infection-related cancers," said Melina Arnold, first study author.
 
Is the western diet and lifestyle to blame? The evidence from the study seems to suggest so. Among countries with rising colorectal cancers were China, Russia, Brazil, and the Baltics, which have recently adopted more western lifestyles alongside their upward economic shifts.
 
But, if lifestyle influences can drive colorectal risks up, it can also be changed to reverse or lower the risks. "[Colorectal cancer] is largely preventable because it's related to lifestyle factors," said Arnold. As such, diet and exercise are extremely important in reducing risks for colorectal cancer. In addition, routine screening and early detection are needed to reduce the number of colorectal cases in the future, she added. "Something needs to happen in countries seeing this transition where there is increased burden." 

Additional source: CNN
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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