The following factors increase the risk of bowel cancer

Red and Processed Meat
  • Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Studies show convincing evidence of increased bowel cancer risk with consumption of red (17% increased risk per 100g/day) and processed meat (18% increased risk per 50g/day).
Healthy Tips

  • Consume less than 500g a week, very little if any to be processed.

  • Cook meat carefully.  Charred or blackened meats can damage the cells lining the bowel.

    • Partly cook meat inside to reduce cooking times on open flames, grills or BBQs.
    • Keep cooking temperatures low and use marinades to protect meat from burning.

Alcoholic Drinks
  • Limit alcoholic drinks.
  • Studies show a 10% increased risk for bowel cancer per 10g ethanol/day.

  • Drinking alcohol is also linked to the risk of forming large bowel adenomas (benign tumours).
Healthy Tips
  • Limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women, with two alcohol free days a week.
  • A standard alcoholic drink contains approx. 9g of ethanol.
    • A stubby of beer (375ml) ~ 15.4g ethanol.
    • A stubby of light beer (375ml) ~ 7.9g ethanol.
    • 1 glass of red wine (100ml) ~ 9.6g ethanol.
    • 1 spirit nip (30ml) ~ 8.7g ethanol.

Body Fatness and Abdominal Fatness
  • Be as lean as possible within normal range of body weight.
  • Studies show convincing evidence that:

    (i) greater body fatness is a cause of bowel cancer (2% increased risk per kg/m2);
    (ii) abdominal fatness is a cause of bowel cancer (17% increased risk with increased waist to hip ratio).
  • Obesity is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer and death from bowel cancer.
  • Type 2 diabetes is increasingly recognised as an independent risk factor for bowel cancer.
Healthy Tips
  • Maintain body weight within the normal range from age 21.
  • Avoid weight gain and increases in waist circumference throughout adulthood.
    • Aim for a BMI of 18.5-24.99.
    • Waist circumference <80cm for women and <94cm for men.

Cigarette smoking
  • Cigarette smoking is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer and death from bowel cancer.
  • There is now sufficient evidence that tobacco smoking is a cause of bowel cancer (38% increased risk for an increase of 40 cigarettes per day).
  • Smoking cigarettes is also linked to an increased risk of forming bowel adenomas.  Cigarette smokers who have had surgery to remove bowel adenomas are at an increased risk for the adenomas to recur (come back).
Healthy Tip
  • Quit smoking.


Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
Bowel Cancer Australia Nutrition Lifestyle Challenge
Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Modifiable Risk Factors 300