Reducing Your Bowel Cancer Risk

An estimated 54% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors, which sadly means these cases could have been prevented. Making a few simple changes to your lifestyle could help you reduce your risk of developing Bowel Cancer later in life.

The most common causes of ‘preventable’ bowel cancer are: 


The single most damaging factor in relation to the development of bowel cancer is meat consumption. Specifically too much red meat and too many processed meat products such as salami, bacon and sausages.

Try having at least one completely meat-free day a week and keep red meat consumption to a minimum. You can substitute red meat for chicken, game or fish but also keep an eye on your portions.  Research indicates that diets rich in fish may be even more effective than completely vegetarian diets in preventing bowel cancer.

Eating less meat means there is more room on your plate for vegetables! Dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli are particularly beneficial. Whole grains (eg wholemeal bread and brown rice), beans and lentils are a great source of dietary fibre, which is what keeps your digestive system moving, so opt for those rather than white bread and rice.


Alcohol is a known risk factor for bowel cancer and in particular has been linked to early onset bowel cancer affecting people under the age of 50. Early onset bowel cancer can be more aggressive and harder to treat and unfortunately diagnoses in this age group in the UK are on the increase. Restrict your alcohol intake when you drink to the advised number of units and have days where you don’t drink.

If you find you are unable to restrict the amount of alcohol you are drinking seek help from your GP or support groups such as AA.


Smoking doesn’t just affect the respiratory system; the chemicals in cigarette smoke enter the bloodstream and reach every part of the human body, including the gut. Stub it out!


Being significantly overweight has been implicated as a cause of bowel and other cancers. Even if you are not overweight but have an inactive lifestyle your risk increases so try to fit in a minimum of 20 minutes exercise a day.

Vigorous housework, gardening and brisk dog walking all count!

Your risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age and that’s why it’s so important to take part in the national bowel cancer screening programme when you are invited. The age range for bowel cancer screening is currently being lowered to age 50, as capacity in each area allows. The upper age limit is 74 but you can elect to continue screening beyond that by contacting the National Bowel Cancer Screening helpline on 0800 707 6060.

When you receive an invitation to take part in screening, along with the screening kit, we urge you to take advantage – it could save your life!

Bowel Cancer Screening

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