Today I want to advice you of the steps you need to take to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. I urge you to read it particularly as I’m laying myself bare having just had a bowel screening test. Excuse the pun.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, after breast, lung and prostate cancers.
Yesterday I underwent a Bowel Cancer Screening Sigmoidoscopy at the University Hospital of North Tees. Nothing alarming, as they have now implemented a policy where people aged 55 are invited to have their lower bowel checked for signs of pre-cancer. The test took about 10 minutes, and simply involved passing a soft, flexible tube into me to look at my bowel.
The joys of aging. All went well in regard to the results, if the process itself was a little bit invasive but it really was painless and quick, and the medical team were really supportive. An all clear for bowel cancer made it a worthwhile experience.
When I was discharged they gave me a small booklet outlining the healthy lifestyle practices to implement to best help to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. I’m pleased to say I am doing everything they suggest. What a relief that is for a healthy lifestyle coach and blogger.
The good news about bowel cancer is it can be prevented. Seventy-five percent of all cases could be avoided by things you can do.
Let me share with you the lifestyle habits which will help you to best avoid bowel cancer as specified in the NHS booklet.
1. Get Screened
Getting regular screening tests for bowel cancer is essential to protect yourself from the disease. It can catch cancer early, when it’s most treatable, and help prevent the disease by finding abnormal growths called polyps that can turn into cancer which can then be removed. I promise you it is not a procedure to worry about, and can give you peace of mind as well as being a great way to avoid the risks of bowel cancer.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
A multitude of cancers have been linked to weight gain and obesity, including bowel cancer. An ideal goal is to weigh about the same weight you were at about 21 years old. Your first step is to stop putting on weight, and then gradually begin to lose weight aiming for 1 or 2 pounds weight loss a week. You can reach and maintain a healthy weight if you follow a healthy diet, reduce your daily calorie intake and exercise.
3. Don’t Smoke
It is no secret that not smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health. On top of raising the risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke and emphysema, smoking is a major cause of at least 14 different cancers, including bowel cancer. If you do smoke, quitting has real benefits, which start shortly after your last cigarette. If you live in the UK check out Smoke Free NHS. It is a free service and run by incredibly supportive people.
4. Be Physically Active
It’s hard to beat regular activity. It lowers the risk of many serious diseases, including bowel cancer, and provides a good mental boost and a trillion other benefits. Any amount of physical activity is better than none, but it’s good to aim for around 30 minutes or more of moderate activity each day. Choose things you enjoy, like brisk walking, cycling, dancing or gardening. Leading a physically active lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
5. Drink Only Moderately, if at all
Moderate drinking is defined as up to four alcoholic drinks for men and three for women in any single day, although much research suggests this should be one drink per day for women, two per day for men. For cancer prevention, it is recommend not drinking alcohol at all. Data suggests that 7% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to alcohol consumption. So, the fact is drinking alcohol has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer, particularly if you regularly drink large amounts. I leave you to determine whether the best route is to give up alcohol or limit it greatly.
6. Limit Red Meat, Especially Processed Meat
As a plant based eater I was pleased to find this. Further proof of the dangers of eating animal products. Eating too much red meat – like steak, hamburger and pork – increases the risk of colon cancer, and that’s a fact. Processed meats – like bacon and sausage raise the risk even more. High fat consumption from red and processed meats may be a contributor to the cancer-causing process. Try to eat no more than three servings each week. Less is even better. None is your best option. Sorry if I’m preaching again.
7. Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D
There is good evidence that getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help protect against cancer. Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and about 1,000 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D. A daily multivitamin is a good nutrition insurance policy that can also help protect against bowel cancer. Check out my own label multi-vitamin.
8. Plant Based Eating – lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
The World Cancer Research Fund advices that basing your diet on plant foods is a great first step to eating well and reducing your cancer risk. Research shows that eating plenty of wholegrains and consuming a diet rich in fibre decreases the risk of bowel cancer. This may be because fibre helps to move food more quickly through the bowel as well as preventing insulin resistance. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit probably reduces your risk of a number of different types of cancer. Vegetables and fruit provide vitamins, minerals and other substances known as phytochemicals which help protect cells in the body from damage that may lead to cancer.
Changing some of these lifestyle habits can also lower the risk for many other types of cancer, as well as other serious diseases like heart disease and diabetes. So they make sense for you to implement them.
I hope and prayer that you never suffer from any form of cancer and do urge you to implement these sensible lifestyle habits which certainly will reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
Just remember this old saying, “Old age just snuck up on me and I didn’t notice until it was too late”.
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