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Who is at risk of bowel cancer?

 

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer, but it shouldn’t be.  If bowel cancer is detected at its earliest stages, there is a greater than 90% of curing it. In recognition of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April, Check4Cancer is sharing a series of blogs exploring the WHO, WHAT, WHY and HOW of bowel cancer. In our first blog, we explore the question: who is at risk of bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer, but it shouldn’t be[1]. If bowel cancer is detected at its earliest stages, there is a greater than 90% of curing it. In recognition of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April, Check4Cancer is sharing a series of blogs exploring the WHO, WHAT, WHY and HOW of bowel cancer. In our first blog, we explore the question: who is at risk of bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer, rectal cancer or colorectal cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon (large bowel) or rectum. Bowel cancer is influenced by a number of risk factors, including diet, lifestyle, family history, other medical conditions and age.

  1. Diet

 There is strong evidence that a diet high in red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer. There’s also evidence to suggest that a diet high in fibre could help to reduce your bowel cancer risk - foods that are high in fibre include wholegrains such as brown rice, wheat and spelt, as well as other foods like nuts, seeds and pulses. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is also important because they contain antioxidants which can help to delay or prevent cell damage.

  1. Lifestyle

Scientists believe that around half (54%) of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle[2]. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of bowel cancer – it is estimated that 11% of cancers in the UK are caused by obesity[3]. In addition, long term smokers have a higher risk of bowel cancer than non-smokers and heavy consumption of alcohol is also known to increase risk.

 3. Family History

 A strong family history of bowel cancer can increase your risk of developing the disease. A meta-study showed that bowel cancer risk is more than doubled in people with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with the disease – for those within this group, the risk is higher in those with more than one affected relative, or a relative diagnosed at a younger age[4]. Certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis) and MAP (MUTYH Associated Polyposis), can increase the risk of developing bowel cancer at a younger age.  

4. Other Medical Conditions

 Longstanding inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, increase the risk of developing bowel cancer.

5. Age

 More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) of bowel cancer are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, and nearly six out of ten cases (59%) are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over[5]. But it is important to remember that bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age; more than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50.

 Understanding these bowel cancer risk factors can help you make healthy changes to your lifestyle. Just because you have a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop bowel cancer, but it is important to be aware of the condition. If you are worried about bowel cancer, Check4Cancer offers BowelCheck, a simple testing kit you can use in the comfort of your own home to identify any abnormalities and advise you on your risk factors. Early detection saves lives and, for this reason, BowelCheck is available for anyone over the age of 45, earlier than the NHS bowel cancer screening programme. Find out more about BowelCheck here.

 

[1] https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/bowel-cancer/

[2] https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/risk-factors/reducing-your-risk/

[3] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer/risk-factors

[4] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bowel-cancer/risk-factors#heading-Nine

[5] https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/about-bowel-cancer/bowel-cancer/

 

 

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