What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer affects an estimated 40,000 people per year in the UK alone making it the third most common cancer. Sadly around 1 in 20 people are likely to develop bowel cancer. The cause of bowel cancer is as yet unknown but there are risk factors including diseases suffering from bowel conditions already. Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis is thought to increase your bowel cancer risk. The good news is bowel cancer is preventable if diagnosed early. Bowel cancer creates precancerous growths, which can be removed before the disease has developed. With fast detection, bowel cancer treatment is up to 90% effective so it’s very important to attend regular screening appointments What Is Bowel Cancer? Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal cancer. It is cancer that begins in your colon or rectum. These abnormal cancerous cells if lead untreated can spread to other areas

Risk Factors for developing Bowel Disease

There is no definitive way of knowing if you will be a higher risk for bowel cancer, however, there are some known risk lifestyle risk factors. Whilst you can’t do anything about the general risk factors awareness and attending screening appointment are equally important


1. Age

Once you turn 50 it’s even more important to be vigilant with screenings as bowel cancer is far more common in those over 50. The risk seems to rise as 40% of bowel cancer cases are diagnosed in those aged over 75. •

2. Family History of Bowel Cancer

A family history of bowel cancer– if any of your close relatives (a sibling, or parent for example) developed bowel cancer your risk is increased. The risk factor further increases if your family were diagnosed at a young age (below 45)


Lifestyle risk factors include:

3. Diet

Too much red and processed meat

Medical research suggests a diet heavy in processed meat and red meat increases your bowel cancer. To reduce your risk, limit how much red meat you eat and avoid processed meats as much as possible. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb and goat. You don’t need to cut red meat totally from your diet but it is best to eat no more than 500g of red meat on a weekly basis.



Fibre is an important part of your diet to prevent constipation and help you to feel full for longer. It’s recommended that you eat 30g of fibre every day. Good sources of fibre include wholegrains such as nuts, seeds wheat and spelt plus soluble fibres such as oats, peas, lentils apples etc, Fibre has the added benefit of helping you to maintain a healthy weight as it will keep you feeling fuller for longer. If you want to know more about increasing your dietary fibre speak to your doctor and they can suggest ways to increase the amounts of fibre you consume.,

4. Water

Water is essential for maintaining a healthy bowel. Drinking your recommended 8 glasses of water a day will lower your risk factor and can help maintain a healthy weight


5. Weight

Obesity and being overweight can increase your risk of bowel cancer. 11% of bowel cancer cases are thought to be related to being overweight or obese. To reduce your risk factor its recommended you keep your weight within a healthy BMI range. Being overweight or obese and carrying a lot of weight around your waist can increase your risk of bowel cancer. It is estimated that 11 out of 100 bowel cancers (11%) in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.



6. Exercise

Leading a sedimentary lifestyle with little movement and exercise is thought to increase your colon cancer risk. Regular exercise will also help you to maintain a healthy weight and boost endorphins so make you feel better. If you struggle to exercise regularly try building it up gradually. A few simple steps like walking instead of driving, using stairs rather than lifts and going outside more can make all the difference

7. Alcohol

l It is thought that 6% of bowel cancer cases are linked to alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol is known to be a risk factor so its important to stay within recommended guidelines on the NHS website to keep health. For optimal health, its recommended that you have at least 2 days per week without alcohol Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including bowel cancer. It is estimated that about 6 out of 100 bowel cancers (6%) in the UK are linked to alcohol.



5. Smoking

Smoking We know that smoking will increase your risks of developing various types of cancer. Bowel cancer risks greatly increase the more cigarettes you smoke so if you are struggling to quit even cutting down will help. Smoking also increases risks of heart disease and other problems so if you want to protect


If you are concerned about bowel cancer  it is important to attend your regular screening appointments and work with your GI doctor to reduce your risk factor