13
Oct
2016

What you don't know can hurt you

Bowel Cancer Australia

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The 4 Non-Modifiable Bowel Cancer Risk Factors Everyone Should Know
 
Did you know bowel cancer is forecast to be the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2016 and will affect 1 in 11 Aussies in their lifetime, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)?

Were you aware that there are steps you can take to lower your bowel cancer risk, such as limiting your consumption of red meat and alcohol, eliminating processed meats from your diet and ensuring you engage in regular physical activity?
 
The things you are able to change are known as ‘modifiable risk factors’ because you can modify your behaviour to reduce your risk.
 
Click here for more modifiable risk factors you can change to reduce your bowel cancer risk.
 
However, certain risk factors cannot be changed (and are therefore referred to as ‘unmodifiable risk factors’).

Find out what these factors are, whether or not you may be at increased risk and what you can do.
 
1. HEREDITARY CONDITIONS
Accounting for around 5-6% of bowel cancer cases overall, the two most commonly inherited conditions linked with bowel cancer are Familial Adenomatous Polyposis which is also known as FAP, and Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC), also referred to as Lynch Syndrome.
 
In HNPCC, mutation carriers’ lifetime risk for bowel or other syndrome cancers is 70-90%. If a person has a HNPCC mutation, each of their children has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation.
 
If untreated, FAP mutation carriers have a lifetime risk for bowel cancer close to 100%. An affected person has a 50% chance of passing the condition on to each of their children.
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If these hereditary conditions run in your family and your specialist suspects you have a genetic predisposition, they will refer you to a Family Cancer Clinic.
If you are under age 50 and diagnosed with bowel cancer, speak with your GP for advice and a referral to a Family Cancer Clinic.
 
2. FAMILY HISTORY
The more members of a family affected by bowel cancer, and the younger they were at the time of diagnosis, the greater the chance of a family link.
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you have at least one first-degree and two or more first or second-degree relatives with bowel cancer on the same side of the family, or if you have a first-degree family member and one or more first or second-degree relatives with bowel cancer on the same side of the family who have had multiple bowel cancers, bowel cancer diagnosed under the age of 50, or other HNPCC related cancers, you should talk to your GP about getting a referral to a specialist and a family cancer clinic.
 
If you have only one first-degree relative diagnosed with bowel cancer under the age of 55 or two first or second-degree relatives on the same side of the family diagnosed with bowel cancer at any age, your GP may refer you to a specialist. It may be recommended that you have a colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and again every five years. Alternatively, you may be referred for colonoscopy when you are ten years younger than the youngest relative diagnosed in your family with bowel cancer.
 
3. PERSONAL HISTORY
Pre-existing health conditions that have been shown to increase bowel cancer risk include: cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast; a history of adenomas in the colon; a history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Chrohn’s disease.
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you have a personal history of bowel cancer you may undergo regular or follow-up colonoscopies for observation based on your risk profile.
 
4. AGE
Bowel cancer risk rises sharply and progressively from age 50. Your risk continues to rise with each birthday thereafter.
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you have no bowel cancer symptoms, no hereditary conditions and do not have a personal or family history of bowel cancer as outlined above, medical guidelines recommend screening using an at-home bowel cancer screening test every 1 to 2 years from age 50.
 
 
Fortunately, around 90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if detected early.

For more information about bowel cancer risk factors and screening options, visit our website and check out our new resources on our website.
 
Confused, or have further questions about bowel cancer?

Contact our Bowel Cancer Care Nurses for answers to your bowel cancer questions or visit our website for more information at bowelcanceraustralia.org.
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