Bowel cancer symptoms can be subtle and also very common – most people with them do not have cancer.
Constipation, where you pass harder stools less often, is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions, but a persistent change in bowel habit or blood in stools can be a sign of the disease.
Most people diagnosed with bowel cancer are over the age of 60, and symptoms could be mistaken for less serious health conditions.
Unexplained weight loss and extreme tiredness for no obvious reason can be less obvious signs of the disease.
The cause of most bowel cancers is not yet known, but there are six factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease.
According to Bowel Cancer UK these are being aged over 50, a strong family history of bowel cancer, a history of non-cancerous growths in your bowel, longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, type 2 diabetes, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The charity says: “You are more at risk of getting bowel cancer if you have one or more of the following risk factors. This doesn’t mean that you will definitely get bowel cancer.
“Equally, if you don’t have any risk factors, it doesn’t mean you can’t get bowel cancer.”
You could lower your risk of bowel cancer by making some simple lifestyle changes.
Cutting back on red and processed meat could lower your risk of developing bowel cancer, according to Lizzie Tuckey, director of clinical strategy at Bupa.
Maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your alcohol intake may also prevent the disease.
The best way to protect yourself against bowel cancer is to boost the amount of fibre you’re eating.
Good sources of fibre include fruit, vegetables, beans, pulses and whole grains.
Other things that have been found to increase risk of cancer developing, include cooking your food in a certain oil.
Scientists have warned that frying food in vegetable oil releases toxic chemicals linked to cancer.
According to Martin Grootveld, a professor of bioanalytical chemistry and chemical pathology, “a typical meal of fish and chips”, fried in vegetable oil, contained as much as 100 to 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the safe daily limit set by the World Health Organisation.
Alongside this, scientists’ research in 2015 found heating up butter, olive oil and lard produced lower levels of aldehydes.
Coconut oil produced the lowest levels of the harmful chemicals in tests, reports The Telegraph.
Other health experts say what oil you cook your food in can also affect symptoms of arthritis.