Bowel cancer risk: The six ways to reduce your risk of bowel cancer

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One in 15 men and one in 18 women in the UK will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime, but it is frustratingly preventative in a lot of cases. In fact, scientists believe around half (54 percent) of all bowel cancers could be prevented by having a healthier lifestyle. Express.co.uk reveals the six ways to reduce your risk of bowel cancer, according to Bowel Cancer UK.

Diet

You can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by improving your diet.

Bowel Cancer UK stresses the importance of avoiding processed meat and limiting red meat in particular, as well as eating plenty of fibre from whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruit.

Fibre is important for bowel health and reducing your risk of bowel cancer because fibre is what keeps everything moving easily through your digestive system, adds bulk to your poo and makes it easier to travel through the bowel.

A huge 28 percent of bowel cancer cases in the UK are caused by eating too little fibre.

You should also try to drink about six to eight glasses of fluid every day and avoid sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks and squash.

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Physical activity

People who are more physically active have a lower risk of bowel cancer, and on top of that, being active can help you maintain a healthy weight and makes you feel good.

About 11 percent of bowel cancer cases in the UK are caused by being overweight or obese, and a further five percent by too little physical activity.

Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity such as brisk walking, five times a week to ward off bowel cancer and get the other benefits of exercising.

As fitness improves, you should aim for 60 minutes at a time.

Bowel Cancer UK recommends starting with 10 minutes a day and increasing gradually if you’re not accustomed to exercising at all.

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Alcohol and smoking

Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including bowel cancer, and it is estimated that about six out of 100 bowel cancers in the UK are linked to alcohol.

For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol at all.

If you do drink alcohol, keep it as low as possible with an upper limit of no more than 14 units a week and try to spread it out over the week, Bowel Cancer UK stressed.

The site warns: “Remember to have at least two alcohol-free days a week. This recommendation is for men and women.”

You should also quit smoking completely, as an estimated seven percent of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to tobacco smoking.

Bowel cancer risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day.

Bowel Cancer UK said: “We know that smokers are more likely to develop polyps (non-cancerous growths in the bowel) which could turn into cancer if not discovered.

“If you want to give up smoking, your GP can help, advise and refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking service.”

Aspirin

Strangely, there is some evidence that long-term use of aspirin lowers the risk of developing non-cancerous growths (polyps) and bowel cancer.

Some research studies show that people who take aspirin regularly, for three years or more, have a lower risk of getting cancer of the bowel, oesophagus (food pipe or gullet) and stomach.

There is also some evidence of reduced risk of breast, prostate and lung cancers, but it is weak.

However, aspirin may also cause side effects, such as indigestion or bleeding, and we don’t know how safe it is to take it regularly.

According to Bowel Cancer UK, doctors do not usually recommend taking aspirin regularly for bowel cancer prevention unless you have a condition called Lynch Syndrome, or you’re taking part in a clinical trial.

The site reads: “If you’re thinking of taking aspirin, speak to your GP or cancer specialist first.

“They can advise you on the safety of aspirin and whether it might benefit you.”

Statins

Statins are widely used to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and now researchers have started to look at whether they can lower the risk of bowel cancer.

The results of some studies have suggested that statins may play a role in preventing bowel cancer.

However, as Bowel Cancer UK points out, these studies have either been too small or not of a high enough standard to show a definite link, or they haven’t shown any link between statins and bowel cancer risk at all.

The site explains: “There isn’t enough evidence to show that statins have any effect on the risk of bowel cancer and we need to wait for larger studies before we will find out whether there is a link.”

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