The incidence of malignant cancers of the digestive system is increasing in younger populations, warns the president of the Portuguese Society of Gastroenterology this Thursday, calling for “increased attention” to identify precursor lesions of these tumors.
Malignant tumors of the digestive system (esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, colon and rectum) kill ten thousand Portuguese a year, which corresponds to about 30 deaths a day, according to data provided by Guilherme Macedo, on the eve of World Day of Digestive Cancer.
“It is a huge number that creates a significant challenge”, says the gastroenterologist, noting the identification of these tumors in increasingly younger patients, which is related to “multiple factors”, such as environmental factors, diet and the “obesity epidemic”, which “is clearly” a factor that favors and conditions the appearance of oncological lesions of the digestive tract among the youngest.
“There is a combination of forces here that plagues us, which end up increasing the requests for the older group because, in fact, we are able to get there, but also for the younger group, because clearly the incidence of these cancers is increasing in younger populations”, he warns.
Guilherme Macedo exemplified that “it was classic” to point to the age of 55 to start the screenings at the cancer of the colon and rectum, which has now dropped to 45 years, according to international guidelines. “It’s an unmistakable sign that the tumors appear in the younger age group,” she says.
This reality is also observed especially in patients with liver cirrhosis, whose most frequent cause in Portugal is alcoholic cirrhosis. “We are seeing people, especially those in their 40s, also having these types of circumstances, which also happens in other cancers, whether in the stomach cancer and, unfortunately, also in pancreatic cancer we have been identifying younger and younger people”, he says.
Of the digestive cancersresponsible for a third of all cancer cases in Portugal, those involving the pancreas and liver are among the deadliest with an average life expectancy of less than one year.
“It is time for all of us to understand that, if health is in our hands, it is absolutely appropriate for us to make a non-invasive investigationbut progressive from the younger stages of our biological path, because many of these cancers do not have any clinical manifestation, sometimes for a long time, months or years, and when they manifest chronically, we have great difficulties in relation to their treatment”, he explains. .
For Guilherme Macedo, the challenge launched is for “a redoubled, cautious, prudent, but sensible attention to the identification of these precursor lesions of digestive cancer”.
He also highlighted the increase in digestive cancers in Europe and, in particular, in Portugal, for which multiple reasons contributed, some of which are related to some delays that occurred during the pandemic period, especially in early diagnosis.
“In fact, we have a significant set of oncological situations, many of which are capable of taking preventive and early action. And, therefore, our great challenge over all these years has been a struggle for public literacy, on the one hand, and the literacy of colleagues itself for early referencing, for identification, for the timely use of many complementary methods of diagnosis that are fundamental at this stage”, concludes Guilherme Macedo.