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  • Reduce your risk of bowel cancer

    01 June 2020

    Up to one third of all new cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes—add in regular screening and that increases to nearly 50 per cent. 

    June is Bowel Cancer Month, a great time to make simple lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your bowel cancer risk and improve your general health and wellbeing. 

    1.    Be physically active

    Physical activity can reduce the risk of bowel cancer by speeding up the rate of digestion, helping to expel waste and toxins from our body quicker. We recommend one hour of moderate intensity physical activity or 30 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity on five or more days a week to reduce your cancer risk. People who have stopped physical activity, or who are starting a new physical activity, should start at a level that is easily manageable and gradually build up the recommended amount, type and frequency of activity. See your doctor before starting a new exercise program, particularly if you haven’t been active for a while.

    2.    Eat a healthy diet high in dietary fibre

    Dietary fibre occurs naturally in foods such as wholegrain cereals, fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes and is encouraged as part of a varied and nutritious diet. Men should consume 30 grams of dietary fibre per day and women should consume 25 grams per day, however many of us fall short of this recommendation. In fact, research has shown that almost 20 per cent of bowel cancers could be prevented if Australians met their dietary fibre requirements. Find out more about how fibre cuts your cancer risk here, you can also access a five day, high fibre meal plan here

    3.    Limit lean red and processed meat intake 

    When it comes to cancer risk, studies have shown that high red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of cancer, specifically bowel cancer. If you choose to eat red meat, try and limit it to a palm sized serve three to four times a week or no more than 455 g cooked/700 g raw per week. It’s also important to limit or avoid processed meats like frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham, as evidence shows that high consumption also increases cancer risk.

    4.    Avoid or limit alcohol 

    Even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can increase your risk of bowel cancer (and other cancers too). When alcohol is broken down in the body, the molecules are toxic and the more you drink, the higher the risk of developing cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, Cancer Council SA recommends no more than two standard drinks per day, or even better, avoid it altogether. 

    5.    Maintain a healthy weight 

    Evidence shows a link between carrying excess weight and an increase risk of bowel cancer (and other cancers too). Extra weight carried around the waist is considered higher risk, when compared to weight carried around the lower body. Stay active and limit foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar, such as junk foods, and sugary drinks to help prevent weight gain. 

    6.    Be Smoke-free

    There are many benefits to stopping smoking and reducing your risk of bowel cancer is one of them. It is never too late to quit smoking, and the sooner you quit, the more you cut your cancer risk. Whenever you are ready, or if you would like to know more about what is involved in a quit journey, call Quitline on 13 7848 or visit www.quitlinesa.org.au. Quitline provides practical, confidential and non-judgemental support to assist you to plan your Quit journey. 

    This Bowel Cancer Month, take positive measures to reduce your risk and improve your overall health. For people who have completed cancer treatment, Cancer Council SA offers a free Healthy Living After Cancer program. Interested in finding out more? Visit our website at cancersa.org.au/cut-my-risk or call 13 11 20

    You can also access a free and confidential telephone-based coaching service called Get Healthy SA for additional support.

    Nat von Bertouch 
    Cancer Council SA Dietitian


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