World Cancer Day – February 4th, 2019

“Scientific cancer research aims to cure cancer, ensure cancer patients to live longer, improve quality of life and try to prevent cancer to develop.”

Fanny Vuik, MD / PhD Candidate Dept. of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC
Manon Spaander, Associate Professor of Gastroenterology, Erasmus MC

On World Cancer Day we take a moment to consider cancer research and the scientists who are performing this research. This research provide us new knowledge and insights which enables us to prevent, cure, care and improve all cancer related care as well as the optimisation in general healthcare. Fanny Vuik and dr Manon Spaander performed research on colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence in young adults in Europe.

It is recently known that there is an increasing incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults in the US, Australia, Canada and China. However, if this was also the case for Europe was unknown. They found that also in Europe there is an increasing incidence of CRC in young adults, with an annually rise of 6% in patients in the age group of 20-39 years of age.

There hasn’t been a clear explanation for this substantial increase. While informing people is important, a national colorectal cancer screening program amongst younger people won’t have much of an effect: even though there is a definite rise in the number of diagnoses, the total number of people with colorectal cancer remains – fortunately –quite low. 

Differences in lifestyle

The following step is to assess who (within the age group 20 – 39 years) have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. This research will focus on the differences between tumor characteristics of young versus older patients, and will also look at the effect of differences in life style. For example, is there a relation between the kind of food consumed and the group more likely to develop colorectal cancer?

Economic status and colorectal cancer

Some studies suggest a correlation between low social economic status and higher risk of development of colorectal cancer. Possible factors that might be related are an unhealthy diet, smoking, sedentary life and limited access to relevant information.

Prevention

Prevention should start with primary schools: by showing young children what a healthy life style looks like –eating of fruit and vegetables, playing sports –the children would be taught an approach that could benefit them later in life.

Not a chronic disease

Cancer isn’t a chronic disease yet. There are forms of cancer that are relatively easy to detect and manage. However, more aggressive forms are not yet curable. Fortunately, the topic of cancer is no longer a taboo – and that is a big benefit.