June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Bowel Cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia after Lung Cancer. However, it is also one of the most preventable cancers. So by reducing known lifestyle factors, and by undergoing regular screening, you can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer.
Over the next two weeks we’ll provide you with some tips to help live a healthier life.
What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel Cancer (also known as colorectal cancer), can develop in any part of the colon or rectum, either growing from the inner lining of the bowel or from small growths on the bowel wall.
Undetected, it can spread into the wall of the bowel, the lymph nodes (glands) and then to other organs.
If you are aged 50-74, you are at higher risk. But if detected early, 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated.
How can I prevent Bowel Cancer?
There are a number of risk factors including age, family history, inflammatory bowel disease, poor diet, physical inactivity, alcohol, obesity and smoking.
There are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk:
Eat a healthy diet
A diet high in fibre will help reduce your risk. Eating a high fibre diet will help reduce the risk of constipation and inflammation to the bowel wall. Wholegrain and wholemeal bread and cereal, fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes are all high in dietary fibre.
Reduce red-meat consumption
Research has shown that eating red meat and processed meat may increase the risk of bowel cancer. While red meat is important for supplying the body with iron and other nutrients, you should try and limit your intake of red meat to three or four serves per week. Fish, chicken and other meat alternatives are good replacements.
Exercise and maintain a healthy body weight
There is evidence that regular exercise can lower your risk of bowel cancer, while living a sedentary lifestyle can increase it. Obesity, specifically abdominal obesity (tummy fat) is also linked to the disease, especially in men.
To lower your risk, you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity five times per week. By living an active lifestyle, you will also lower your risk for other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Smoking has been proven to cause bowel cancer. Smokers are more likely to develop bowel cancer than non-smokers, and are more likely to die from the disease. It’s never too late to quit smoking, even smokers who quit at the age of 60 can reduce their chance of getting cancer and other diseases. You can Visit the Quit website for tips and information, or speak to one of our doctors to come up with a plan to help you quit smoking.
Check back next week for part 2 of our prevention guide.