Preventing bowel cancer
In some people it is clear why they developed bowel cancer - they inherited it; but, in most people, there is no identifiable cause. Without a known cause it makes preventing the disease a tricky business.
It is believed that eating a healthy diet with plenty of fibre, maintaining a healthy weight, taking more exercise, and not smoking may help prevent bowel cancer.
Eating to prevent bowel cancer
Proper nutrition and diet are important in helping to prevent many diseases and bowel cancer is no exception. In the fight against this disease, nutritional guidelines include eating less red meat and fat and getting more nutrients from the food you eat rather than from supplements.
Red meat and bowel cancer
Diets high in red and processed meats (such as bacon, ham and sausages) have been linked with an increased risk of bowel cancer. According to Cancer Research UK around one in five bowel cancers are linked to red and processed meat consumption. The Department of Health advises people who eat more than 90grams (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day should cut down to 70grams.
Fruit and vegetables
According to the NHS a diet rich in fibre that contains plenty of fruit and vegetables, and wholegrains, can help reduce a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer.
Fibre and your colon
Fibre is thought to be a powerful weapon against cancer. Recent research has shown that intake of dietary fibre reduces the risk of bowel cancer, particularly fibre from cereals and wholegrains.
Good sources of fibre include: whole grain cereals and breads, prunes, berries, kidney beans and other legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables and brown rice.
Healthy eating guidelines for cancer prevention
These tips will help you follow a healthy, cancer-fighting diet:
- Choose most of the foods you eat from plant sources.
- Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly those from animal sources.
- Be physically active. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit consumption of alcohol.
The NHS recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week.
Try to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
If you smoke, quitting will reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer, and other types of cancer.
The NHS, your GP or pharmacist can offer help, support and advice to give up smoking.
How else can I protect myself from bowel cancer?
Aspirin: It has been proposed that aspirin may stop cancer cells from multiplying. In addition, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may reduce the size of polyps in the colon, and therefore, the risk of colon cancer. However, this belief has not been well established and the proper dosage needed to create this potentially risk-reducing effect is not yet known. In addition, not everyone can tolerate aspirin due to gastrointestinal problems, an increased risk of bleeding, medication interactions, or other medical problems. If you are concerned about your risk of developing bowel cancer, you should not start taking aspirin until you discuss it with your doctor.
Screening: Most health problems respond best to treatment when they are diagnosed and treated as early as possible. The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme in England sends invitations to men and women aged between 60-75 who are registered with a GP. 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 tested.