About Bowel Cancer
The bowel forms the lower part of the digestive system or gut, and is a tube that connects the stomach to the anus.
It is divided into two parts; the small and large bowels.
The small bowel is involved in the digestion and absorbtion of the nutrients from our food. The large bowel that is made up of the colon and rectum absorbs water, vitamins and minerals from the digested food and forms the undigested material into stools or faeces in the colon. The stools are then stored in the rectum until they are passed via the anus.
The majority of bowel related cancers occur in the large bowel and so ‘bowel cancer’ mainly refers to colon and rectal cancers. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in men, and the second most common cancer in women in the UK. Each year, there are over 18,700 new cases of bowel cancer in men and over 16,800 cases in women. Most cases of bowel cancer begin with the development of benign polyps, finger-like growths that protrude into the intestinal cavity. These benign polyps are not cancerous and relatively common in people over the age of 50.
However they can become cancerous with the ability to invade the normal bowel and spread to other parts of the body. The tumours can create blockages in the intestine and prevent the passing of stools.
The exact causes of bowel cancer are not known, but risk appears to be associated with genetic, dietary, and lifestyle factors. Those with a personal or family history of bowel cancer or polyps are at a higher risk, as are those with ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and immunodeficiency disorders. Risk increases with age and with the occurrence of cancers in other parts of the body. High fat and meat diets are risk factors, especially when combined with minimal fruit, vegetable, and fibre intake. Lifestyle risk factors include cigarette smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.
For further information on Bowel cancer (Colorectal cancer) go to the Cancer Research UK website at http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk