Irish Cancer Society launches bowel cancer awareness month

The Irish Cancer Society has revealed the counties in Ireland which have a high bowel cancer incidence rate at its launch of bowel cancer awareness month which takes place in April. The society is urging people, particularly those in bowel cancer ‘hotspots’, to reduce their risk of bowel cancer by making some small lifestyle changes.

According to data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, Cork has the highest rate of bowel cancer in Ireland with an incidence rate of 57.9 per 100,000 per year. This is closely followed by Leitrim (rate of 56.39 ), Louth (rate of 54.97 ), Dublin North (rate of 54.49 ), Westmeath (rate of 54.23 ), Dublin South (53.87 ), Cavan (53.44 ), Mayo (52.98 ), Waterford (52.29 ), and Sligo (52.28 ).

The high levels of bowel cancer incidence in certain parts of the country could be due to lifestyle or genetic factors. The Irish Cancer Society is encouraging people in these counties, who may be at a higher risk, to review their lifestyle to see if they can make healthier choices to reduce their risk.

“Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland,” said Joan Kelly, nursing services manager at the Irish Cancer Society. “Each year around 2,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 900 people die from it. One of the reasons for this is that more than half of people with bowel cancer are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, which means that they require more complex treatment and have a poorer chance of survival. The good news is that bowel cancer is treatable if caught in time, and screening helps detect bowel cancer at an early stage.”

Research has found that adults who increase their physical activity and have a healthy diet can reduce their risk of developing bowel cancer by 30 to 40 per cent. Currently, more than one third of the over 50s in Ireland are obese, a further 44 per cent are overweight, and about one third of the over 50s report low levels of physical activity. It is estimated that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day offers the best protection against bowel cancer.

Physical activity affects the risk of bowel cancer in a number of ways: it leads to regular bowel movements and may therefore reduce the time the bowel is exposed to potential cancer-causing substances; it reduces inflammation of the bowel which might otherwise increase bowel cancer risk; and it reduces the amount of insulin and some other hormones in your body which at high levels can encourage the growth of cancer cells.

Aside from increasing their levels of physical activity, people are reminded to be aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer. Bowel cancer which is detected in early stage is treatable and patients can have positive outcomes. Finally, people between the ages of 60 and 69 can also take part in the national bowel screening programme called Bowel Screen.

Last year, the Irish Cancer Society donated €1 million to Bowel Screen which will be used to purchase equipment in hospitals around Ireland and support the continued rollout of the bowel cancer screening programme. Anyone who is concerned about cancer can contact the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700 to speak to a specialist cancer nurse who can offer information and support.


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