Eating more wholegrains, like brown rice and whole-wheat bread, may reduce bowel cancer risk.

This is according to a new report by World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The report evaluated all of the research worldwide on how diet, weight and physical activity affect bowel cancer risk.

Factors that increase bowel cancer risk

The report confirmed that the following increase bowel cancer risk:

  • Eating processed meat, such as bacon or salami
  • Eating too much red meat, (over 500g of cooked meat a week), such as beef or pork
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking two or more alcoholic drinks a day, such as two glasses of wine or two measures of spirit

How to decrease bowel cancer risk

It was found that eating three servings (90g) of whole grains a day reduces the risk of bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) by 17 per cent.

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This adds to our previous evidence showing that eating foods containing fibre decreases the risk of bowel cancer.

It was also found that people who are more physically active have a lower risk of colon cancer compared to those who do very little physical activity.

“Bowel cancer is common, but almost half of cases could be prevented by people taking positive steps to help reduce their risk, such as eating more wholegrains and less processed or red meat,” says Susannah Brown, Senior Scientist at World Cancer Research Fund.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for preventing bowel cancer, as well as for reducing the risk of many other chronic diseases, including 10 other common cancers.”

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for preventing bowel cancer and 10 other common cancers

“Replacing some of your refined grains with whole grains and eating mostly plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables and beans, will give you a diet packed with cancer-protective compounds and help you manage your weight, which is so important to lower risk,” recommends Alice Bender, Director of Nutrition Programs at American Institute for Cancer Research.

The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 45 per cent of bowel cancer cases could be prevented in the UK each year through healthy lifestyle changes.

Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, however it is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. 

“Many of the ways to help prevent colorectal cancer are important for overall health. Factors such as maintaining a lean body weight, proper exercise, limiting red and processed meat and eating more whole grains and fibre would lower risk substantially. Moreover, limiting alcohol to at most two drinks per day and avoidance or cessation of smoking also lower risk,” says Edward L. Giovannucci, lead author of the report and Professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.