For Decembeard, Dr Andy Poullis, one of our Consultant Gastroenterologists, and fully accredited bowel cancer screening colonoscopist, at New Victoria Hospital, provides some advice on what you can do to help prevent bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer affects more people aged 50 and over

There are over 260.000 people living with bowel cancer in the UK, and there are over 2.500 new cases diagnosed every year.

Most bowel cancer cases are diagnosed in those over the age of 50. However, a recent study that involved 143.7 million people between 20 and 49 years old in 20 European countries, suggests that the incidence of bowel cancer is rising among younger adults in Europe.

18,7918 (0.13%) of the study population were affected by bowel cancer. Results show that bowel cancer incidence increased by 7.9% every year among people between 20–29 years from 2004 to 2016.

The annual increase in the age group of 30–39 years was 4.9% from 2005 to 2016, and it was significantly lower, 1.6%, in people aged 40-49 between 2004 and 2016.

Men are slightly more at risk of developing bowel cancer than women. 7% of men are diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime, compared to 5.5% of women.

Bowel cancer risk factors

Bowel cancer incidence is influenced by age, comorbidity with other bowel diseases and lifestyle.

The main risk factors for bowel cancer include:

  • Age over 50

Although the incidence of bowel cancer is increasing among young people, 94% of bowel cancer cases are diagnosed in people over 50 years old.

  • Close relatives affected by bowel cancer and genetic polyposis syndromes

CRC depends on both genetic and environmental factors, but it is estimated that at least one third of colorectal cancers are associated with a familial component.

  • History of colorectal polyps

Not all polyps are cancerous; however, all bowel cancers potentially start from polyps and in case of polyp relapse, the risk of colorectal cancer is higher.

  • Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

Bowel cancer can develop from an area of abnormal cell growth, dysplasia, which is more often seen in people suffering from Chrohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

  • Type 2 diabetes

A recent study associates type 2 diabetes with x1.3 higher risk of CRC, especially for people affected by obesity

  • Alcohol and tobacco

High alcohol consumption, over 30g per day, seems to be associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer, whereas on another study, smokers seem to be 18% more likely to develop CRC

  • Red meat consumption

Studies show that high consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of CRC. A recent study conducted on women in the UK suggests that distal colon cancer can be linked to red meat diet regimens

How to prevent bowel cancer

Early diagnosis is the first form of prevention.

A healthy lifestyle is important, but the best way to prevent bowel cancer is through screening.

Bowel cancer screening

At age 55 all individuals are offered a one off flexible sigmoidoscopy, the examination of the left side of the bowel.

The NHS send test packages called FIT tests to all UK residents aged between 60 to 75 years old every 2 years. Those with a positive result are offered a colonoscopy.  

The FIT test is a non-invasive test that can be done in the comfort of your home, and you will get results in approximately 15 days.

You can also book an appointment with one our Consultant Gastroenterologists, if your age doesn’t entitle you to a free NHS screening and you are concerned about your symptoms and risk factors, and would like fast access to an appointment.

FIT – Faecal Immunochemical Test

The FIT test looks for traces of blood in the stool.

The presence of blood can depend on many factors and doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have cancer.


A Colonoscopy is a deeper and more precise examination to check your large bowel health.

A Colonoscopy is performed by inserting a tiny, flexible telescope in your bottom to allow examination of the large bowel –colon- to see if there are any problems such as inflammation, polyps or any other bowel problems.

How does the colonoscopy work

To avoid discomfort, you will be offered a light sedative. Air is blown into your large bowel to facilitate the vision of the tissues through the camera.

During the colonoscopy polyps can be removed, and if need be biopsies can be done, cutting a small piece of tissue for analysis under a microscope.

The examination is painless; however, you might feel a bit sleepy or bloated for the next few hours after the procedure.

Decembeard is a great initiative to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

If you experience any bleeding from your bottom, a change in bowel habit, feel abdominal pain or would like to discuss bowel cancer screening, take action today to check your bowel health.


If you would like to make an appointment with one of our Consultant Gastroenterologists at New Victoria Hospital call 020 8949 9020 or book online.

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