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Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms

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Cancer is fiendishly difficult to fight because cancerous cells often spread and multiply before they are detected. The best defence against cancer is to reduce your risk of developing it in the first place. Certain dietary decisions have been shown to increase your risk of cancer.

The link between diet and cancer is complex and inconclusive but “we know for definite that processed meat is a cause of cancer”, says Cancer Research UK.

Processed meat includes ham, bacon, salami, and sausages.

According to Cancer Research UK, red meat is classed as a probable cause of cancer.

“This means there is lots of good evidence of a link, but we need a few more of the best quality studies to be certain.”

What does the evidence say?

A study of nearly 500,000 people published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that people who ate red or processed meat four or more times a week had a 20 percent higher risk of bowel cancer than those who indulged less than twice a week.

Specifically, participants who reported consuming an average of 76 grams a day of red and processed meat compared with 21 grams a day had a 20 percent higher risk of bowel cancer.

Risk of bowel cancer rose 19 percent for every daily 25-gram serving of processed meat, which is equivalent to a slice of ham.

And for every 50-gram-a-day serving of red meat — equal to a thick piece of roast beef — the risk of bowel cancer rose by 18 percent.

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The UK Government recommends that people eating more than 90g of red and processed meat a day should reduce it to 70g or less. 70g is the cooked weight.

The study also linked alcohol to a higher risk of bowel cancer: just a half pint of beer per day increased bowel cancer risk by eight percent.

The study also generated some positive insights.

A number of foods were associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer, amitriptyline hcl and cymbalta including high-fibre items such as bread and breakfast cereals.

But higher fibre intake from vegetables and fruits did not appear to reduce risk.

Other risk factors

“Cancer risk factors include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviours,” notes the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The NCI continues: “They also include things people cannot control, like age and family history.”

Risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Alcohol
  • Cancer-Causing Substances
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Hormones
  • Immunosuppression
  • Infectious Agents
  • Obesity
  • Radiation
  • Sunlight
  • Tobacco.

Cancer – symptoms to spot

It’s important to be aware of any new or worrying symptoms.

As the NHS explains, although it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate. Finding cancer early means it’s easier to treat.

Speak to a GP if you’ve noticed these changes and it’s lasted for three weeks or more:

  • Tummy discomfort
  • Blood in your poo
  • Diarrhoea or constipation for no obvious reason
  • A feeling of not having fully emptied your bowels after going to the toilet
  • Pain in your stomach or back passage (anus).

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