What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal or colon cancer which is the name given to a cancer, which affects the large bowel or back passage. Depending on where the cancer starts.

The majority of bowel cancers begin as benign polyps, which develop on the inner lining of the bowel. They very often do not produce any symptoms, making them difficult to detect and treat. Undetected polyps can multiply into cancerous cells, which can then eventually form a tumor.

According to the NHS, bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the UK. In 2009, there were 41,142 new cases of bowel cancer registered in the UK:

  • 18,431 cases were diagnosed in women, making it the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer.
  • 22,711 cases were diagnosed in men, making it the third most common cancer after prostate and lung cancer.
  • Researchers predict by 2030 there will be an increase by up to 124% for the under 35’s and up to 46% for the under 50’s.

The causes
Unfortunately, the exact cause of Bowel cancer is not yet clear, however, there are a number of factors, which can increase a person’s risk of developing the disease.

These include:

  • Having a family history of bowel cancer
  • Having an inherited bowel condition(polyps), such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
  • Having a long-term bowel condition, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Having a diet that is low in fibre, fruit and vegetables
  • Too much red and processed meats
  • Leading an inactive lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Having type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

The chances of bowel cancer also increase with age.