Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK, according to statistics from Bowel Cancer UK. As a result, it is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed across the country. However, increasing your consumption of certain “colourful” foods could help to lower your personal risk, according to an expert.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) declared in 2018 that red meat consumption is “probably a cause of colorectal cancer”.
Ms Martin pointed out that among the lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of bowel cancer “a poor diet” is a leading factor, along with alcohol consumption, smoking and a “sedentary lifestyle”.
According to Ms Martin, most people in the UK “do not reach the recommended intake of 30 grams” of fibre per day, putting them at “increased risk of disease”.
She added: “You can’t control some factors, like your age or your family history, but some of them you can.
“It is worth paying attention to those you can change, as over half of all bowel cancers are preventable through the lifestyle choices we make.”
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What diet changes can you make to decrease your risk of bowel cancer?
Ms Martin said: “One of the most important things we can all do to decrease our risk of getting bowel cancer is to choose more whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.”
And, of the fruits and vegetables you do eat, ensuring you get plenty of colour onto your plate could have hugely beneficial results.
Ms Martin explained: “Varied plant-based diets are colourful.
“The pigments that provide these different colours, for example, lycopene in tomatoes, anthocyanins in blueberries and sulforaphanes in dark leafy greens, have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, including cancer of the bowel.”
A diet high in whole, plant-based foods is also rich in fibre, another massively beneficial factor in a healthy bowel.
Ms Martin said: “Fibre increases stool volume and allows waste to be excreted more quickly.
“This dilutes harmful substances and reduces their contact time with the lining of the bowel.
“In addition, fibre feeds the good bacteria that live in our bowel, helping to produce substances called short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. “Butyrate has been found to reduce inflammation, suppress tumour growth and help the cells in our bowel stay healthy.”