Bowel Cancer



Early diagnosis really does save lives!

Every 15 minutes someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer, sadly, it’s the UK’s second biggest cancer killer but it shouldn’t be.

It’s treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage however this drops significantly as the disease develops.



We don’t know what causes most bowel cancers, but we do know that some factors increase your risk of getting the disease. Some of these are things you can’t do anything about, for example, age and genetics. But you can make changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk of getting bowel cancer.

You are more at risk of getting bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors. This doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer. Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, it doesn’t mean you can’t get bowel cancer.

  • Aged over 50

  • A strong family history of bowel cancer

  • A history of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel

  • Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • An unhealthy lifestyle


Scientists believe around half (54%) of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle. You can reduce your risk by:

  • Improving your diet

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight

  • Being physically active

  • Reducing alcohol consumption

  • Stop smoking

Improving your diet


You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by taking some simple steps to improve your diet.

  • Avoid processed meat and limit red meat

  • Eat plenty of fibre from wholegrains, pulses, veg and fruit

  • Be a healthy body weight



The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

· Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
· A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
· Unexplained weight loss
· Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
· A pain or lump in your tummy Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer.

Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. If you have one or more of these, or if things just don’t feel right, see your GP.

Body weight


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.

Physical activity

People who are more physically active, have a lower risk of bowel cancer. Being active can help you maintain a healthy body weight and makes you feel good.

Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as brisk walking, five times a week. As fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes. If you don’t do much physical activity, try starting with 10 minutes and increase the time gradually. It doesn’t have to be about working out in a gym. Enjoy it!


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.

For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol at all. If you do drink alcohol, keep it as low as possible with an upper limit of no more than 14 units a week and try to spread it out over the week. Remember to have at least two alcohol free days a week. This recommendation is for men and women.



An estimated 7% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to tobacco smoking. Bowel cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

We know that smokers are more likely to develop polyps (non-cancerous growths in the bowel) which could turn into cancer if not discovered.

If you want to give up smoking, your GP can help, advise and refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking service. 


These services offer the best support for people who want to give up smoking.

For more information on bowel cancer please visit:
Cancer Research UK

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