Cancer By izzy, ella, myles and MilliE

What is cancer?

Cancer is a disease of which 1 out of 2 people get during their lifetime in the Uk. It is when abnormal cells divide in an uncontrollable way and kill other normal healthy cells.

Cancer cells growing in the body

All cancer begins in our cells because they contain the specific instructions or codes for our body. They let cells know what particular function they have, how to duplicate and how often. However, sometimes if these signals are faulty or missing, cells may start to grow and multiply too much and form a lump called a tumour. This tumour is either benign (not harmful) or cancerous (which is harmful!)

Normal cells vs cancer cells
When can a cell become cancerous?

A cell can become cancerous when a mutation occurs in the cell, specifically in the nucleus since that contains the genetic information for the cell. Mutations can occur for many reasons, for example, they can happen by chance when a cell is dividing, or, they can be caused by things coming from outside the body, such as the chemicals in tobacco smoke. Lastly, some people can inherit faults in particular genes that make them more likely to develop cancer.

Cancer cells duplicating microscopically
Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is 4th most common cancers in the Uk and has a number of risk factors involved. It is in fact cancer of the bowel but it usually starts in the colon (large bowel).

Image showing where cancer can start

It usually occurs in the inner most lining of the bowel walls, since there are several layers, and starts off as a small growth called a polyp or adenoma. If untreated, they might become cancerous and grow into the muscle layers under the lining of the bowel and then through the bowel wall.

The cancer can then spread into organs that are close to the bowel, such as the bladder, womb or prostate gland. This can then spread to other areas of the body through the Lymphatic System or through the Blood stream.


The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

bleeding from the back passage (rectum) or blood in your poo

a change in your normal bowel movements

a lump that your doctor can feel in your back passage or tummy

a feeling of needing to poo even after opening your bowels

losing weight

pain in your abdomen or back passage

tiredness and breathlessness

Bowel obstruction

Stages of Bowel cancer
Stages of bowel cancer

In 2014 there were 41,265 cases of bowel cancer

54% of bowel cancer cases were linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors, these were preventable

15,903 of the sufferers died

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer

Different lifestyle choices such as red and processed meat consumption (21%), overweight and obesity (13%), alcohol (12%), smoking (8%) and ionising radiation (2%).

Increased 14% since 1970

Risk factors

Alcoholic drinks

An estimated 11% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to alcohol consumption.

Bowel cancer risk is 21% higher in people who drink around 1.5-6 UK alcohol units per day, compared with non-/occasional drinker

Bowel cancer risk is 52% higher in those who consume around 6 units or more per day, compared with non-/occasional drinkers.

When a person drinks alcohol, the body converts the alcohol into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde.

It can cause cancer by damaging DNA and stopping our cells from repairing this damage

Tobacco smoking

Many of the chemicals found in cigarettes have been shown to cause DNA damage.

Smokers are also less able to handle toxic chemicals than those with healthy lungs and blood. Chemicals in cigarette smoke make it harder for smokers to neutralise or remove toxins, and can make their immune systems less effective too.

Ionising Radiation

Ionising radiation can cause changes in the chemical balance of cells. In addition, by damaging the genetic material (DNA) contained in all cells of the body, ionising radiation can cause harmful genetic mutations that can be passed on to future generation

Processed meats

Haemoglobin from the red meat is broken down in our gut to form a family of chemicals called N-nitroso compounds. These have been found to damage the cells that line the bowel, so other cells in the bowel lining have to replicate more in order to heal. And it’s this ‘extra’ replication that can increase the chance of errors developing in the cells’ DNA – the first step on the road to cancer.

Body fatness

Body fatness effects the way cells work.

How to reduce the risk of bowel cancer?
A list of 6 ways to reduce bowel cancer and how many cases they would save each year
Stop smoking

Tobacco contains lots of toxins which have a negative effect on your health and significantly increase your risk of cancer. Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop bowel cancer.

Exercise moderately

The recommendation is to do at least half an hour of moderate physical activity at least five times a week. This is because exercising regularly uses up extra calories and helps you avoid gaining weight. It also helps food to move through your digestive system more quickly.

Eat more fibre

Eating a diet high in fibre helps reduce the risk of bowel cancer in a number of ways. The main reason is that it helps food pass through your body more quickly.

Keep a healthy weight

There is evidence that being overweight increases the risk of cancer and this is stronger now than ever before. After not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.

Drink less alcohol

Drinking less alcohol can help reduce bowel cancer because it lowers the body's ability to absorb folate, a vitamin that cells in the body need to stay healthy. This problem can be worse in heavy drinkers, who often do not get enough nutrients such as folate in their diet.

Eat less red and processed meat

Researchers are still investigating how red meat causes cancer. One possible way involves a compound called haem , which contains iron and gives red meat its colour. Haem has been shown to damage the lining of the bowel. We also know that when we eat red meat, chemical compounds called nitrosamines are formed, which are known to damage the DNA in our cells, which can cause cancer.


There are more cases in more modern times this is because there are now more processed foods. This also links to the countries because in the westernised countries there is more processed unhealthy food, smoking and alcohol which are known to cause cancer.

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