Lifestyle choices

There is plenty of evidence that lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on our health and well being, and affect our risk of developing certain diseases and illnesses. Having had treatment for bowel cancer, you may feel that you want to do as much as you possibly can to improve your general health and to reduce the risk of your cancer coming back.

 The lifestyle choices mentioned here may help reduce your personal risk. You may wish to incorporate some of them into your routine to a lesser or greater degree, depending on your personal circumstances and your budget.


  • Reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet, especially refined ingredients, with a high fat and/or sugar content, and high levels of preservatives.
  • Avoid reheating fats and oils.
  • Avoid super-heated snacks such as crisps, chips and cheap breakfast cereals.
  • Reduce your intake of smoked, barbecued or burnt foods.
  • There is evidence of a link between excessive consumption of red meat (beef, lamb, pork) and bowel cancer, so we recommend that you aim for less than 500g (cooked weight) a week. There’s more detailed information on this at NHS Choices.
  • The research linking processed meats (e.g. bacon, ham, salami) with bowel cancer is even stronger, so we recommend cutting down on these as much as possible.
  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing a range of cancers, including bowel cancer. If you drink alcohol regularly, guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers suggest that both men and women can keep long term health risks low by drinking no more than 14 units a week on a regular basis and by spreading drinking evenly over three or more days.
  • There is evidence that long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop bowel cancer. Giving up smoking will have many health benefits, including reducing your risk of cancer.

Red BerriesThere is much debate about which environmental factors may cause cancer. In the meantime, you might like to take control by taking steps to avoid some possible causes.






You can reduce your exposure to pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers if you:

  • soak lettuce leaves and herbs in water, then dry before eating (use a salad spinner)
  • wash fruit well before placing in the fruit bowl
  • wash vegetables well before cooking
  • buy organic foods if possible.


It’s not always possible, but you could try limiting your exposure to other potentially harmful substances which occur in everyday products:

  • petrol and diesel fumes, paraffin
  • cosmetics, shower gels and deodorants that contain parabens (most parabens are banned in the EU)
  • polycarbonate plastic bottles (use glass where possible).


And these are a few easy ways to limit your exposure:

  • have leafy plants and ferns around the house to help absorb environmental pollutants
  • do not reuse plastic water bottles
  • rinse soap and detergents thoroughly from crockery and cutlery
  • don’t store food in plastic food containers or plastic film
  • if you like burning candles go for soy or beeswax varieties.


There’s more detailed information and evidence at these websites:
Cancernet or order the book ‘Lifestyle After Cancer’ by Prof Robert Thomas here
Cancer Research UK
World Cancer Research Fund