Whilst the exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown, research suggests that your diet can affect your risk of developing bowel cancer.  

We asked our dietitians for their advice on what to eat – and what not to eat – to reduce your bowel cancer risk.  

What can I do to reduce my risk of bowel cancer? 

The first step to reducing your bowel cancer risk, is to limit your intake of red/processed meat. Red meat is a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals and a key component of a healthy balanced diet. However, it is recommended that you do not consume more than 350-500g of red or processed meat per week. This is the equivalent of around 3 portions per week.   

  • Red meat includes beef, pork, veal, venison and goat 
  • Processed meat includes: sausages, bacon, ham, cured meats, pate, canned meat i.e Corned beef and pre-sliced meat, including turkey/chicken 

For example, a portion of meat as part of your  Sunday roast (3 slices of meat) = 90g, a quarter-pounder burger = 78g, a grilled 80z beef steak = 163g, and a cooked breakfast (2 sausages and 2 thin rashers of bacon) = 130g. 

To effortlessly reduce your intake of these foods, why not try some simple swaps? Here are a few ideas:  

  • Swap sausages or bacon in your cooked breakfast for grilled  tomato, hash brown, mushrooms or beans 
  • Swap red meat in your sandwich for tuna, chicken or egg mayonnaise 
  • Swap a beef burger for chicken or veggie burger  
  • Use less meat in stews/curries and replace it with more vegetables, beans or pulses 
  • Swap beef/lamb mince for turkey/vegetarian mince next time you make a lasagne, chilli con carne or spaghetti bolognese  

Remember, as long as you eat a balanced diet that includes good sources of iron, such as lentils, beans, eggs, fish, chicken, nuts and breakfast cereals, your iron levels will not be impacted by decreasing your red meat intake.  

Are there any foods I should eat more of? 

Research suggests a diet high in fibre can also help reduce your risk of bowel cancer.  

Fibre has many benefits, it helps move other food and waste products through the intestines, thus keeping them healthy. Fibre also makes you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less likely to overeat. It may also help reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood too!  

Good sources of fibre include: 

  • Wholegrain varieties of bread, breakfast cereals, rice and pasta 
  • Oats 
  • Pulses including beans, peas and lentils 
  • Unsalted nuts (in moderation) 
  • Fruit and vegetables (particularly those with the skin on) 

By making these small yet important changes to your diet, you can help to keep your gut healthy and lower your risk of bowel cancer.  

At Cromwell Hospital, we have a world leading nutrition and dietetics team that can help with assessing, diagnosing and treating a range of dietary and nutritional problems.

Find out more about the Dietetic service at the hospital and how they can support you >