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Research into causes and prevention of bowel cancer

Find out about the latest UK research into causes and prevention of bowel cancer.


The risk of developing bowel cancer is higher in people who have a family history of bowel cancer. This can be caused by an inherited gene change. The risk increases depending on which gene is damaged or which part of the gene is damaged.

Researchers are looking at samples of tissue from people who have had bowel cancer to learn more about the genes that can cause the disease. They are also collecting information about family history.

Diet and physical activity

Researchers are looking at ways to prevent and slow the growth of bowel cancer. 

They have looked at the impact of lifestyle. They found that eating a high fibre diet, less red meat and processed meat can reduce the risk of bowel cancer.There is also strong evidence that maintaining a healthy weight and exercising lowers the risk. 

Researchers want to find what information people need to help them make these changes. 


Researchers are looking into whether drugs can prevent bowel cancer. They have looked at non steriodal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin to see if they can prevent bowel cancer developing. Results suggest that aspirin might reduce the risk of bowel cancer developing.

They are also looking into whether aspirin can play a role in helping to prevent cancer spreading.

Last reviewed: 
25 Aug 2016
  • Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies
    D Aune and others
    British Medical Journal. November 2011

  • Vitamin D and cancer: current dilemmas and future research needs 
    CD Davis
    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008, Vol 5

  • Dietary fibre in food and protection against colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC): an observational study
    SA Bingham and others
    The Lancet. 2003, Vol 361

  • Overweight, obesity and fat distribution in 50- to 64-year-old participants in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)
    M Haftenberger and others
    Public Health Nutrition, 2002. Vol 5

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