Prevent bowel cancer – Reduce your risk by 70%
There are approximately 50,000 people in Australia living with bowel cancer.
This year it is expected that bowel cancer will be responsible for 8.8% of all cancer deaths and is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in Australia.
Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers in the Western world.
It is also known as Colorectal Cancer. Malignant cells may arise in the colon or the rectum and these may develop into a tumour resulting in symptoms such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits. If untreated, this cancer will spread to other parts of the body and may ultimately be fatal.
This content is intended to be educational; it should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern you should consult an appropriately licensed physician or health care worker.
A recent study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (volume 99), showed that to some degree you can prevent bowel cancer naturally. They studied the relationship between Vitamin D and risk of bowel cancer. They found that with Vitamin D levels in the blood of over 80 nmol/l, there was a 72% reduced risk of bowel cancer compared to those individuals with levels 50 nmol/l ¹
Sunlight is often not enough!
A sufficient amount of Vitamin D is defined as anything over 50 nmol/l ². These days many of us have insufficient levels. Vitamin D is produced by the action of UVB sunlight on the skin. Glass blocks UVB radiation as does sunblock and clothes, so unless you are exposing yourself to the sun for a significant period of time each day, there is a chance that you have insufficient levels of Vitamin D.
How much is enough?
The current scientific consensus is that the ideal amount of vitamin D for optimal health, is 125 nmol/l ³. Ask your doctor for a blood test to check your Vitamin D levels. If you have levels under 80 nmol/l then consider taking Vitamin D3 supplements. They are cheap, easily absorbed and you should see an increase in your blood levels of Vitamin D fairly rapidly. Regular testing allows you to reach that ‘sweet spot’ between 100 to 150 nmol/l.
90% curable if detected early
Bowel cancer is 90% curable if detected early which is why screening is so important. There are two screening methods used in Australia:
- Fecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT). This is a chemical test used on stools (faeces) which will show if there is blood in your stool. Blood in your stool may be one of the early signs of cancer.
- Colonoscopy. This is a medical procedure in which doctors use a flexible camera to visually examine the colon for polyps, tumors, and other abnormal growths.
Having adequate Vitamin D levels will reduce your risk and having regular screening can give you peace of mind. If you want to find out if you have a higher or lower risk than normal for bowel cancer, consider getting your own Genetic Health Plan.
Note: If your blood tests for Vitamin D3 show ng/ml instead of nmol/l use this conversion calculator .
- Prospective Study of Serum Vitamin D and Cancer Mortality in the United States Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 99, No. 21. (7 November 2007), pp. 1594-1602, doi:10.1093/jnci/djm204 by D. Michal Freedman, Anne C. Looker, Shih-Chen Chang, Barry I. Graubard
- Working Group of the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society; Endocrine Society of Australia; Osteoporosis Australia. Vitamin D and adult bone health in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement. Med J Aust 2005;182:281-5 https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/vitamin-d
- Singh G and Drees BM. Normal, Healthy, and Optimum Level of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Required Daily Intake of Vitamin D. Austin J Nutri Food Sci. 2015;3(2): 1060.