Reducing Your Risk of Bowel Cancer

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June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and like all cancers, there’s no sure fire way to stop Bowel Cancer ever happening to you. But there are modifiable risk factors with bowel cancer that you can change starting today.

Below are eight tips courtesy of Bowel Cancer Australia regarding diet, lifestyle choices and screening that can reduce your odds of being one of 5,375 Australians who will lose their battle with bowel cancer this year alone.

1. Get Moving

Over half of all men and women over the age of 55 are insufficiently active. Being physically active not only helps with weight management but decreases the risk of colon cancer by 16%. Aim to be physically active where the heart rate is elevated, every day for 30 minutes or more.

2. Consume More Wholegrains

Of all the grain foods consumed, only a third of them are wholegrains that are high in fibre. Eating 3 servings of wholegrains a day, such as brown rice or wholemeal bread, can reduce your risk of bowel cancer by 17%.

3. Eat More Dairy

A staggering amount of men and women are not having enough serves of dairy each day. Not only is dairy great for bone strength but consuming dairy products and taking calcium supplements decreases the risk of bowel cancer by 13%. If you’re intolerant or don’t eat dairy, consider consulting a nutritionist regarding alternative sources of calcium appropriate for you.

4. Get Screened

Did you know that only 40% of people invited to participate in the tax payer funded National Bowel Cancer Screening Program actually do? The fact is those participating in bowel cancer screening programs reduce their risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16% compared to those who didn’t. Removing bowel polyps larger than 1 centimetre (cm) may lower the risk of bowel cancer as they’re unable to become precancerous and develop into bowel cancer in the future.

5. Cut Back The Meat Intake

Limit your red meat amount to 500 grams cooked per week and avoid processed meat if you can. Eating processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami and some sausages has been strongly linked with an increased risk of bowel cancer.

6. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

Consuming approximately two or more alcoholic drinks per day increases your bowel cancer risk. Consider having alcohol free days and limit your alcohol intake to 2 drinks or less per day.

7. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases bowel cancer risk. Monitor your body mass index (BMI), waist circumference or waist-hip ratio and keep them within healthy ranges to reduce your bowel cancer risk.

8. Quit Smoking

No good ever comes from smoking and it’ll be no surprise that smoking increases bowel cancer risk. For heavy smokers, smoking 40 cigarettes (two packs) per day increases the risk of bowel cancer by around 40% and nearly doubles the risk of bowel cancer death. Best to ditch the cigarettes for good and watch your health improve in all areas.

Need a little extra motivation to make these lifestyle changes? Why not check out Bowel Cancer Australia’s 12 Week Nutrition & Lifestyle Challenge to help you!

If you’ve had recent changes in bowel habits, noticed bleeding in your stools or other symptoms, please make an appointment with your Northside Health GP. Appointments can be made online or via the HotDoc app.