Who's at risk?

The risk of developing bowel cancer (also known as colon cancer, rectal cancer or colorectal cancer) is influenced by a number of risk factors that include:

Diet – Diets high in red meat and processed meat content are found to contribute towards bowel cancer. Diets with a high proportion of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fibre are found to decrease the risk of bowel cancer. Cancer Research UK states that in 2011, approximately 21% of all bowel cancers were related to the consumption of red and processed meat.

Lifestyle – 13% of bowel cancers are linked to obesity (having a BMI above 40) and there appears to be a stronger link with obesity and colon cancer in men. Long-term smokers also have a higher risk of colon/bowel cancer than non-smokers and heavy consumption of alcohol is also known to increase risk.

Family History – If there is a strong family history of bowel cancer i.e. several relatives have suffered from the disease; the risk is twice that of the average risk (average risk is 25%). Bowel cancer caused by genetic defects can lead to bowel cancer that occurs at a younger age than is common.

Ethnicity – Your race or ethnicity may be a bowel cancer risk factor as certain racial groups are known to have higher bowel cancer incidence and mortality rates. Ashkenazi Jews are found to have several genetic mutations that cause one of the highest risks of bowel cancer amongst ethnic groups and African Americans also demonstrate a higher risk although the reason for this is yet to be established.

Other medical conditions – Other diseases, often related to the colon such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease increase the risk of developing bowel cancer.

Age – Age is a bowel cancer risk factor and the risk starts to rise significantly from the age of 45.

Understanding these risk factors can help you make changes to your lifestyle and be aware of the condition. Just because you have a risk factor doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop bowel cancer. However, early detection saves lives.

Worried about Bowel Cancer?

If you are worried about bowel cancer you can test your risk of having bowel cancer by clicking here. You can also check symptoms of bowel cancer here.

If you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer then you should contact your doctor for further advice and support.

More information
If you are interested in reading more about bowel cancer please click on one of below links:

  • BowelCancer UK – here
  • Cancer Research UK – here
4 ways to lower risk
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop or decrease smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Watch what you eat and drink, reduce consumption of red or processed meat and alcohol