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Reducing your risk
An estimated 54% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors.
Making a few simple changes to your lifestyle could help you reduce your risk of developing it 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.
Cutting out or reducing the amount of alcohol you consume will also have benefits.
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. That kicks in on or soon after your 60th birthday and is repeated every two years until you are 74; at age 55 you will be invited to have a bowel scope examination – do take advantage of it.