Dr Lockie's Blog

Oncology insights - 3 Colorectal Cancer Trends In 2024 And Beyond

12th July 2024

Colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer) develops when there’s an abnormal or uncontrolled growth of cells in the wall of the large intestine, rectum or anus. It’s the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, likely to affect 1 in 20 of us by the time we turn 80.

Let’s take a look at 3 key colorectal cancer trends in 2024.

So, what can we expect in 2024 and beyond when it comes to bowel cancer?

1. Improved Access To Screening

As of 1 July 2024, younger Australians can access the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. This program offers a free bowel cancer screening test every 2 years to eligible Australians aged 50-74.

Now, though, you can request to be screened if you’re aged 45-49 too. Once you’ve sent in your first bowel cancer screening test, you’ll automatically receive another one every 2 years.

Request your test

If you’re eligible for screening, please take up the offer. Only about 40% of eligible people participate in the program, meaning that many Australians are passing up the opportunity for early detection of bowel cancer. That needs to change.

Statistics show that 99% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if they’re detected early. Unfortunately, fewer than 50% are. Screening is an important pathway to earlier detection.

2. Colorectal Cancer On The Rise In Young Adults

In March 2024, the Princess of Wales revealed she had been diagnosed with an unspecified form of cancer following abdominal surgery. Though we don’t know which type of cancer she has, her case highlights the fact that young and seemingly healthy people do develop cancer.

Though it’s often assumed to be an older person’s disease, it seems you’re never too young for bowel cancer – 11% of cases and 5.8% of deaths are in under-50s.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 6% of colorectal cancer cases were in under-40s in 2023. That’s a steep rise from 2% in 2000.

Since 1990, there’s been a 266% increase in bowel cancer among 15-24-year-olds. It’s the 5th most common and 7th deadliest cancer for this age group.

Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:

  • Blood in your stool, which may look bright red, dark brown or black
  • A change in bowel habits – diarrhoea, constipation or narrow stools
  • Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue.

Unfortunately, many younger patients experience delayed diagnosis because their symptoms are put down to something else such as haemorrhoids, stress or recovery after childbirth. It may take 3 months-5 years for a younger person to be diagnosed with bowel cancer and, by then, the cancer may be more advanced.

Hopefully one trend in 2024 will be greater awareness that colorectal cancer is a real possibility in younger patients.

If you have symptoms of colorectal cancer, please see your GP.

3. Concern Over Lifestyle-related Risk Factors For Colorectal Cancer

Some risk factors for colorectal cancer can’t be changed – people can’t change their age, medical history or genetic make-up, for example.

However, many colorectal cancer risk factors relate to lifestyle, which can be changed. You can reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer by:

  • Being physically active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Getting enough vitamin D.

Obesity increases the risk of colorectal cancer. This is thought to be because excess body fat can lead to:

  • Chronic inflammation – a known trigger for cancer development
  • Insulin insensitivity – to support the need for more insulin, the body makes more of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which can fuel tumours.

That combination of chronic inflammation and higher levels of IGF-1 creates an environment where colorectal cancer can develop.

The good news, though, is that bowel cancer develops very slowly. If it’s identified early, it can often be successfully treated.

How Can We Help?

Obesity is a complex condition, influenced by many factors including medications, genetics and lifestyle.

Dr Lockie offers both medical and surgical approaches to weight loss, supported by a multidisciplinary team that includes a:

  • Nurse
  • Psychologist
  • Dietitian
  • Exercise physiologist.

Together, we aim to address the many different factors that contribute to weight gain in a supportive, non-judgemental, evidence-based manner.

If you’d like to explore how we could help you, book an appointment with SCOPE certified Shirley Lockie.


All information is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Dr Phil Lockie can consult with you to confirm if a particular procedure or treatment is right for you. All surgery carries risks.


AHPRA disclaimer

*All information is general in nature, patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion. Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks

Note From Dr Lockie

Medications will be assessed pre-operatively and post-operatively. With weight-loss and particularly after surgery, comorbidities can change for the better, particularly e.g., hypertension or diabetes. It is essential for your health that medications are discussed with you, your GP and/or any other specialists such as Cardiologist or Endocrinologist etc.

In addition, use of multivitamins, and alternative supplements should be discussed with the practice to promote your better health.

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