Bowel cancer can begin anywhere in the colon or the rectum. Though the exact cause of this cancer is unclear and unknown, studies show several factors increase an individual’s likelihood of developing it.
Common risk factors for bowel cancer include:
Bowel or colorectal cancer is more common in older individuals, and most people diagnosed with the condition are usually over 75 years of age.
A first-degree family member with bowel cancer increases your risk for the condition. The risk increases if you have more than one family member with bowel cancer.
Eating excessive red or processed meats or too little fibre increases your bowel cancer risk. Consuming very little fibre in the diet is known to cause at least 30% of bowel cancer cases in the UK.
Smoking and alcohol consumption are high-risk factors for bowel cancer. The more the number of cigarettes, the higher the risk of bowel cancer.
Obesity and high BMI increase an individual’s risk of developing bowel cancer. Around 11% of bowel cancer cases reported in the UK are associated with obesity.
Inactive people tend to have a higher weight and BMI. Studies have shown that physically active people have a lower risk for bowel cancer.
Genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome) increase an individual’s risk for bowel cancer.
Common signs of bowel cancer that usually appear in advanced stages of the condition are:
Genetic and familial risk factors of bowel cancer cannot be changed. However, you can modify other factors to lower your risk for the condition, and these include:
Since the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer do not appear until the disease has progressed to its advanced stages, people over 50 need to undergo regular screening for the condition. Early detection and prompt treatment of bowel cancer improve the chances of curing it and reduces the risk of complications and death due to bowel cancer.
Colon cancer screening for older people is recommended, and these tests can detect polyps and early cancers in the large intestine. Standard screening tests for bowel cancer include:
This is a standard screening procedure for bowel cancer that can check for occult blood. Polyps in the colon may cause bleeding that is invisible to the naked eye but may be detected in stool.
This procedure uses a sigmoidoscope (a small flexible tube with a camera at its end) to visualise the lower part of the colon. It may be used with a stool test for screening.
All adults over 45 must undergo colonoscopy to screen for bowel cancer. It is similar to a sigmoidoscopy, but the entire colon is visible. CT scans may be recommended as an alternative to regular colonoscopy, and this procedure is called a virtual colonoscopy.
People with a high bowel cancer risk may require screening tests earlier than 45 years. Speak to your doctor about your risk.
Bowel cancer risk increases with age and depends upon lifestyle factors. If you are over 45 years old, you should speak to your doctor about bowel cancer screening. Get tested today!