by Sarah Toule, Head of Health Information at World Cancer Research Fund UK
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. However, by making a few simple lifestyle changes, we have the power to significantly lower our risk of developing this common disease.
In fact, bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. World Cancer Research Fund estimates that half of all bowel cancer cases every year could be prevented if we all maintained a healthier weight, had a healthier diet and were more physically active.
Stay a healthy weight
Carrying excess body fat will increase your risk. Having excess stomach fat – regardless of overall weight – is also a risk factor.
What to do: Choose larger portions of colourful vegetables, but keep servings of calorie-packed foods like chips and cheese to a minimum. Limit desserts to twice a week, in small portions.
Be more active
From housework to running, research shows that all types of moderate physical activity will reduce your risk. Yould should aim for at least 30 minutes a day, and try to sit less.
What to do: Find ten minutes today to get moving. Build on that over time by taking more activity breaks or extending the ten minutes to 30.
Eat enough of fibre
Eating a diet with plenty of high-fibre foods, such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrains will lower your risk. Fibre keeps bowel movements healthy, but also helps you stay a healthy weight by keeping you fuller for longer.
What to do: Think differently about what you put on your plate – at least three-quarters should be filled with wholegrains, vegetables and pulses.
Cut back on the meat
Eating too much red meat (more than 500g a week) and any amount of processed meat, like bacon and ham, will increase your risk.
What to do: Limit the amount of red meat you eat to no more than five small portions a week, and avoid processed meat as much as possible. Poultry, fish, tofu or beans are great alternatives.
There is convincing evidence that drinking alcohol will increase your risk.
What to do: If you don’t drink, don’t start! If you do drink, have no more than 14 units a week, which is roughly equal to seven drinks, spread over at least three days.
Enjoy plenty of garlic
Evidence suggests that garlic helps reduce your risk.
What to do: Add garlic to your meals to add flavour. It can be added to stews and stir-fries, but retains more anti-cancer properties when eaten raw, so try adding it to salad dressings.