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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month - June 2024

Tips for Bowel Cancer Prevention

June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to talk about what you can do to reduce your risk of bowel cancer (hint; a lot !). Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the third most diagnosed cancer in Australia; and claims the lives of 103 Australians each week. Risk factors for bowel cancer can be divided into two categories :

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors
  • Your age (Risk increases with age, particularly after 50).

  • A family or personal history of bowel cancer or polyps.

  • Certain Genetic Conditions

  • Having Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or unmanaged Coeliac disease.

  • Your Ethnicity.

Modifiable Risk Factors (ie. those we can influence!)
  • A poor Diet,

  • A sedentary lifestyle,

  • Being overweight or obese,

  • High alcohol consumption,

  • Smoking,

  • Having poorly managed Type 2 Diabetes.

Being aware of your non-modifiable risk factors and doing regular screenings after the age of 45 years old is important, as 99% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully if found early (but less than 50% are detected early). 

Addressing modifiable risk factors can also significantly reduce your risk of ever developing bowel cancer.  Here are some easy health tips from Ana,  our dietitian, and Caitlin, our exercise physiologist :

1. Load Up on Fibre

Research shows that diets rich in fibre are protective against bowel cancer. Aim to include more wholegrain, pulses, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds in your day to day. Think whole grain bread, rolled oats, quinoa, brown rice, lentils, beans, flax or chia seeds, almonds, walnuts.

2. Go for Good Fats

Omega-3s from fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are anti-inflammatory and important for gut health. Avoid saturated and trans fats found in fried foods, baked goods, processed meats and many packaged snacks.

3. Stay at a Healthy Weight

Keeping a healthy weight can lower your cancer risk. Eat balanced meals and stay active. Simple activities like walking or biking can make a big difference.

4. Cut Down on Red and Processed Meats

Sorry, BBQ lovers! Eating a lot of red and processed meats (eg.bacon, ham, salami and other deli meats) can up your risk of colon cancer. Try to have fish, poultry, or plant-based proteins like beans and lentils instead. Opt for a prawn pizza over the chorizo one, eggs & avo on toast instead of a bacon egg roll, and save that steak for special occasions.

5. Limit Alcohol and Quit Smoking

Unfortunately,  regular alcohol consumption and smoking are big factors for bowel cancer. Try to minimise your alcohol intake by keeping at least 4 days a week booze-free.

6. Limit sedentary time

Sedentary time is any time that we spend sitting or lying down. This could be sitting at work, driving or commuting and during leisure time such as watching TV or reading. Studies show sedentary time can cause increased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality and cancer risk. Try breaking up time sitting with small bursts of exercise. For example exercising during the ad breaks on the TV, standing breaks from the work desk or parking further from work to add a short walk to the destination.

7. Build exercise into your daily routine

Breaking exercise into “exercise snacks” throughout the day can help you achieve the recommended dosage. You might choose to walk briskly to and from the grocery shop, pick up your groceries and walk 50m from the trolley to the car or lift the grocery bags from the floor to the bench when packing them away.

8. Regular screenings

Regular screenings (such as faecal occult blood tests or colonoscopies) after the age of 45 years old can help detect cancer early and treat it successfully. If you have a strong genetic predisposition (eg. your parents or siblings have had it), discuss more frequent screening with your doctor.

9. Know the signs & symptoms

If you notice any of these, see your GP !

●        Blood in your poo

●        Obvious change in your bowel habit

●        Weight loss you can't explain

●        Extreme tiredness for no reason

●        Lump or swelling in your abdomen

Book in with our team at Balanced Bodies if you would like assistance with your modifiable risk factors. We are always here to help!


Bowel Cancer Australia (2024). “Bowel cancer facts”

Cancer Council Australia. (2023). "Diet and Nutrition for Cancer Prevention."

Mayo Clinic. (2023). "Colon Cancer Prevention: How to Reduce Your Risk."

World Health Organization. (2023). "Healthy Diet Facts."



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