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:
- family history
- physical inactivity
- eating red and processed meat
- 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: May 2018