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Bowel cancer prevention

While no cancer is completely preventable, it is believed that having a healthy diet and exercising regularly could prevent up to 75% of bowel cancer cases. It is never too late to make changes to your diet and lifestyle.

You can get more information on a healthy diet from your doctor and the Australian Dietary Guidelines

Other risk factors for bowel cancer include:

  • age
  • family history
  • physical inactivity
  • obesity
  • eating red and processed meat
  • smoking
  • alcohol (in men and probably in women).

Screening for bowel cancer is an extremely important strategy for reducing poor outcomes for people with cancer.

A bowel cancer screening test called a faecal occult blood test (FOBT) is used to detect small amounts of blood in the bowel motion, but not bowel cancer itself.

Screening for bowel cancer using a FOBT is a simple, non-invasive process that can be done in the privacy of your own home. Although no screening test is 100% accurate, the FOBT is currently the most well-researched screening test for bowel cancer.

Completing a FOBT every 2 years from the ages of 50 to 75 can reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by up to 25%.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommend that an FOBT is used for bowel cancer screening in preference to a colonoscopy in people who are not at high risk. For more information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

People with symptoms of bowel cancer or who have a family history of bowel cancer should consult their doctor as soon as possible.

Last reviewed: August 2016

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