One in six deaths worldwide are due to cancer. In the UK, 359,734 cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2015. Cancer rates are continuing to rise and as more countries adopt Western lifestyles this is expected to skyrocket by as much as 54%. Global cancer rates are predicted to reach around 24 million by 2035.


A new report by the World Cancer Research Fund concludes that lifestyle factors like being overweight and lacking exercise are directly linked to an increased risk of cancer. 

The report – Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective – provides some of the clearest evidence yet for adopting healthier lifestyles.


Who is Most at Risk of Bowel Cancer?

This is particularly true in relation to bowel cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the third most common in the world (behind lung cancer and prostate cancer).

Around 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year. 

Risk Factors

  • Weight: Being overweight or obese is linked to at least 12 different types of cancer, including bowel cancer. The risk of cancer is a third higher in people who are obese compared to those who have a healthy BMI. Obesity is categorised as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. And because drinking sugary drinks is linked to weight gain, this is one of the factors named in the World Cancer Research Fund report as an additional risk factor. 
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is another. Estimates suggest one in 10 bowel cancers is linked to alcohol.
  • Smoking: Roughly the same number (10%) is linked to smoking. The more you smoke, the greater the risk.
  • Diet: Research has consistently shown a link between eating red or processed meat and bowel cancer. Around one in five bowel cancers is believed to be linked to eating red and processed meat. Government recommends eating no more than 70g per day (equivalent to two sausages). 

Reducing Your Risk of Bowel Cancer

Of course, if your lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer then making healthier lifestyle choices can reduce your risk. Here are some things that you can do to protect yourself:

  • Exercise: Taking regular exercise helps to protect against three different types of cancer, including bowel cancer. And because an active lifestyle helps to maintain a healthy weight it reduces your overall risk of illness, including cancer.
  • Diet: A healthy balanced diet that is low in red and processed meat and high in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and pulses helps to lower the risk of bowel cancer, as well as other types of cancer. Experts recommend swapping red and processed meats for chicken or fish. Stopping smoking also cuts your cancer risk. 
  • Screening: Polyps, or growths in the bowel can develop into cancer over a long period of time. They are very common, with one in every three people developing at least one polyp by the age of 60. Regular screening can help to identify and remove these polyps before they become cancerous or in the early stages of cancer before there are any symptoms. Screening is offered to everyone over the age of 60 in England and Wales and over 50 in Scotland. 

Bowel Cancer Screening | London

It is particularly important to have regular check ups if you have Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease as these inflammatory bowel diseases can increase your risk of bowel cancer by as much as 70%.

It is one reason that you should seek a diagnosis if you are experiencing IBD symptoms so you can be closely monitored.

Having previously had bowel cancer, and certain other types of cancer, also increases your risk of recurrence, so it’s important to attend for screening appointments. 

Certain other medical conditions, like diabetes and gallstones, increase your risk of developing polyps in the bowel. Your doctor will talk to you about this as part of your management of the condition. 

As cancers continue to rise sharply across the globe, the case for individuals making healthy lifestyle choices and undergoing regular screening for cancer has never been clearer and more compelling.

Mr Jamie Murphy is a highly experienced colorectal surgeon, specialising in colorectal cancer, diagnosis and treatment and offers cancer screening via colonoscopy, the most thorough method, in the comfort of one of our clinics.