In an unwanted statistic, Australia has one of the highest incidences of bowel cancer in the world, with an increased risk for those aged 50 or over.
While there are many factors playing a major role in our rate of bowel cancer, almost 50% of cases could be prevented through a change in lifestyle factors, and almost 90% of bowel cancer cases are able to be treated effectively if detected early enough.
What can increase the risk of bowel cancer?
There are a number of common factors that can contribute to an increased risk of bowel cancer, including:
- Poor diet – limit your consumption of red or processed meats and increase your intake of foods containing dietary fibre.
- Excess weight – not only is carrying excess weight a significant risk factor for bowel cancer, but you’re also increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other cancers.
- Inactivity – Are you doing enough exercise? Being active is great for the body and mind. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.
- Smoking – Avoid any tobacco smoking.
- Alcohol consumption – Any amount of alcohol increases your cancer risk, the more you drink and the more often, the greater the risk. Healthy adults should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day.
For more detail on the above , our friends at LiveLighter can help you with their ways to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.
What are some bowel cancer symptoms I should be aware of?
While bowel cancer often shows no symptoms in its early stages, there are still a number of warning signs you should be aware of .
You should consult your doctor or health care provider if you notice blood in your poo, even just once.
Additionally, if you are suffering from prolonged cases (i.e. three weeks or more) of constipation, diarrhoea, stomach pain, loss of weight without trying, or fatigue for no reason, you should also seek medical advice.
Which age groups are most at risk from bowel cancer?
While bowel cancer can occur at any age, the risk increases significantly from the age of 50. It’s estimated that over 15,000 Australians were diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2022, with the median age of those diagnosed being 69.
The Australian Government, through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, aims to reduce deaths from bowel cancel by detecting early signs of the disease. Eligible Australians are mailed home test kits every two years, which can help to find bowel cancer in its earliest stages.
This simple test can be done at home and can detect tiny amounts of blood in your poo, which could be a sign of bowel cancer.
If you’re between 50 and 74, and haven’t received your home test kit, you can order a replacement kit through here, or by calling 1800 627 701.
Looking for more information?
We’re here to help with any questions you may have regarding bowel cancer. You can learn more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) here, or visit our frequently asked questions for more information.