The incidence of bowel cancer -- and deaths -- is rising more rapidly in younger people than in any other age group, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows.
Specialist surgeon Professor Graham Newstead said rates of the disease had increased 64% in data collected from 2002-06 compared with data taken in 1992-96, the latest figures available.
"This is more than five times the increase seen overall across all age groups," the Bowel Cancer Australia spokesman said.
Increased dietary fat and energy intake in the younger generation may be linked to the increase.
"Changes in the way in which our food is produced may also be a factor although the science is yet to be ascertained," he said.
Overall, women had a 10% jump in the incidence of bowel cancer in the same periods, compared a 50% increase in those aged 20-34.
Men of all ages experienced a 14% rise in bowel cancer rates, compared to an 82% leap in those aged 20-34.
The number of young men dying had risen 22%, against an overall 6% fall in mortality due to advances in treatment. "The data suggests that young men are being diagnosed later, when the cancer is more advanced," he said.
"Younger people are also at risk of a more aggressive form of the disease and some have a genetic background that predisposes them to a higher risk.
"Unfortunately, even when there are symptoms in young people, there is a low level of suspicion for bowel cancer before other diagnoses."
The disease is Australia's second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer, claiming more than 4,000 Australians every year.
From the June 1, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.