Bowel Cancer

Reporter: Cassie Silver

It's the cancer more common than we think, "bowel cancer certainly is one of the top 3 cancers in Australia and in WA"

Affecting 1 in every 12 people there are more than 15,000 new cases of bowel cancer every year in Australia, that's nearly 300 people every week.

"So there are some things we know increase the risk of bowel cancer and there are some things that decrease the risk of bowel cancer."

Steve Pratt from the Cancer Council WA says if diagnosed early, 90% of cases can be treated and it's what we eat that could save lives. "Diet is a contributor to bowel cancer we know that it is with other cancer but very much so with bowel cancer because obviously your bowel is part of your digestive system."

So, the do's and don'ts for healthy digestion start with eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. "When we set up the plate to eat about half of that should be fruit and vegetables and that's a really good way to start assuring yourself"

So there's a new addition to the 2 fruit / 5 veg rule of thumb, Steve says "we still very much promote the two and 5 message but the new Australian guidelines talks about 2 fruit and 6 serves of vegetables for men."

So how much is a serve?

For fruit it's about 150 grams or 2 pieces of medium fruit and a serve of vegetables 150 grams of salad or 75 grams of cooked vegetables. "The best vitamin and mineral delivery system is whole fruit and vegetables."

Bowel cancer affects men marginally more than women, and Steve says for males who love their meat it's time to cut back. "A little bit of red meat is ok we know that so 3 or 4 times a week with a serve of about your palm is great but any more than that we start to see a risk increase." Steve says, replace your steak with seafood to avoid an increased risk, "they're not really certain why that increases the risk they think it might have something to do with the iron in red meat and the effect that has on the bowel lining."

Those at a higher risk of diagnosis include those aged 50 or over, a significant family history of bowel cancer polyps and those who've had an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's.

Another thing to lay off is alcohol, "we know this is the case for bowel cancer and breast cancer and those two are really common cancers in Australia so with bowel cancer it increases risk and the more someone drinks."

With half of Australian adults classed as overweight and obesity being one of the biggest contributors to developing bowel cancer. Finding 30 every day is a must, "we know that if people get those healthy habits early in they tend to continue them on for life."

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