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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Food Guide > July 2018 > BOWEL CANCER PREVENTION and RECOVERY PLAN


Experts say up to 20,000 of the 42,000 cases of bowel cancer diagnosed every year in the UK could be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes. We asked the experts for their healthy checklist


BOWEL (OR COLORECTAL) CANCER is one of the most preventable types of cancer. Scientists have established it has strong causal links to poor diet, lack of activity, obesity, smoking and alcohol, and these are all things you can control. Although you can’t alter some risk factors for bowel cancer – such as your family history, height (tall people are more likely to develop it) and having inflammatory bowel disease – you can change your diet and lifestyle.

‘Just as alcohol can cause liver disease and smoking causes lung cancer, an unhealthy lifestyle and bad diet can raise your risk of cancer, particularly bowel cancer,’ says Susannah Brown, senior scientist at the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

‘There are definitely things you can do to protect yourself and reduce your risk significantly,’ says Susannah. ‘Because bowel cancer is so common there’s now a lot of research evidence on the causes. Only 5–15% of cancer cases have a genetic cause. You can significantly influence whether you develop cancer or not in four key ways: keeping to a healthy weight; being physically active; not smoking; and eating a healthy diet.’


One of these factors on its own doesn’t necessarily mean you have bowel cancer, but having several of them may be a red flag, so get them checked out.

● Bleeding from your bottom or blood in your stools (particularly dark red blood, which is a sign of bleeding in your bowel).

● A persistent change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more (especially diarrhoea or looser stools).

● Unexplained weight loss.

● Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason. This is often due to iron deficiency anaemia caused by internal bleeding from polyps (pre-cancerous lumps) or tumours in the bowel.

● Pain or a lump in your tummy.

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About Healthy Food Guide

We share the top 20 foods to reboot your gut health, which experts are now linking to better overall health – from successful weight loss to better heart and mental health. We also help you spot early signs of bowel cancer, correct your computer slump to sort out back pain (and look years younger), identify your personal eating style (to find the kickstart diet that will work for you), and Dr Dawn Harper has words of advice from behind the bedroom door for anyone feeling the heat of menopause… Plus healthier barbecues and a Mediterranean-inspired meal plan, complete with portion guide