Bowel cancer awareness still low in UK

Awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer are still low in the UK, according to research published in the journal BMC Cancer.

The Cancer Research UK-funded study also found that the public was largely unaware that lifestyle factors such as diet, weight and exercise can affect the risk of developing bowel cancer.

The research found that a quarter of the 1,500 people asked were unaware of any of the symptoms of bowel cancer and less than one in 10 able were able to name anything other than changing bowel habits and blood in stools. There was particularly low awareness of lumps in the abdomen and tiredness – both of which are key symptoms.

In regard to risk factors, one in five identified alcohol consumption affecting risk but less than one in 10 could name any others factors.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK and second largest cause of cancer deaths each year. Around 110 people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer every day and about 16,200 people died of the disease in 2008 in the UK.

Dr Emily Power, study author, health information manager at Cancer Research UK and researcher at Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Centre at UCL, said: "This study reveals that the public’s awareness of bowel cancer symptoms is still stubbornly low, particularly among older adults who are at most risk of the disease.

"It also shows there is a long way to go in ensuring people understand the link between having a healthy lifestyle and cancer risk."