Bowel cancer risk factors and symptoms

There are around 43,000 cases of bowel cancer each year in the UK and 54% of those are deemed preventable. Action against risk factors and awareness of symptoms could save so many lives.

Approx read time: 2 mins

I’m sure lots of you have followed Deborah James – Bowel Babe – online, and seen her ‘journey’ from being diagnosed with bowel cancer to saying – as of May 2022 – they’ve done all they can and it’s now palliative care at home. It’s a sad story, as with all cancer deaths and she has been such a source of education and inspiration throughout her treatment.

Risk factors

Bowel cancer can have a hereditary element as well as an age-related one, but diet and lifestyle can also be REALLY strong factors. The research has so far concluded that the following things can play a part in colorectal cancer risk, I’ve put a red pin to the strongest factors:

  • Increased BMI (overweight and obesity) 📌
  • High level of red meat and processed/cured meat intake 📌
  • Smoking 📌
  • Alcohol consumption
  • High salt consumption
  • Low physical activity – being sedentary 📌
  • High levels of stress
  • Low levels of cacium and folate
  • Low vegetable, fruit and fibre consumption 📌


  • Bloating
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Unusual strong fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your poo
  • Pain or lump in abdomen

If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your GP.

It’s important to keep your bowels as healthy as possible by keeping them moving, giving them fibre for faster transit times and to feed the healthy bacteria that look after their walls, and by eating a generally healthy diet that supports your immune system (which sees off cancer cells before they take hold). As well as taking exercise to stimulate bowel contraction and strengthen the immune system.

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Thank you for reading this article. Please note that while we share a lot of awesome information and research you should be aware our articles are strictly for informational purposes and do not constitute medical advice intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

Cover photo by Sora Shimazaki.