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Preventing bowel cancer

How can I prevent bowel cancer?

Doctors don't know exactly what causes bowel cancer, but they do know some things increase a person's risk of developing it.

Some of these can't be changed, such as a genetic risk through a close relative also having bowel cancer. However some come under the heading of lifestyle. Opting for healthier habits may help reduce the risk of getting bowel cancer.


To help prevent bowel cancer, eat plenty of fibre and cut back on bad or saturated fat. A low-fat, high-fibre diet with wholegrains and at least 5-a-day portions of fresh fruit and vegetables can help reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer.

Also cut back on some meat. The Department of Health advises eating no more than 70 grams of red and processed meat a day.


Regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. The NHS recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, such as cycling or fast walking.

Lose weight

If you're overweight or obese, start planning to lose wright. Eating a healthy diet and taking more exercise will also help. Obese men are 50% more likely to develop bowel cancer than those who are a healthy weight. The risk is lower for obese women.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer screening

The chances of surviving bowel cancer improve the earlier it is detected and treated, so make sure you take up the offer of bowel cancer screening.

The ages for the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme vary across the UK, but start at around 60.

Screening involves using a home testing kit, called an FOBt (faecal occult blood test) kit. The kit is used to collect tiny stool samples on a card. This is then sealed in an hygienic freepost envelope and sent to a laboratory to be analysed.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on July 23, 2015

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