Healthy bowel, healthy you

Bowel cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. So what can we do to help prevent it?

Eat a well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight

Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these food groups every day:

  • Enjoy plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, fruit and legumes (beans, lentils).
  • Enjoy cereals, preferably wholegrain, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley.
  • Eat no more than three portions (150g each) of red meat a week. On the other days choose fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes.
  • Enjoy milk, yoghurt, cheese, and/or their alternatives (mostly reduced fat).
  • Drink plenty of water.

Avoid processed foods and limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.

Move your body

Move your body, sit less. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes for most, preferably all, days of the week.

Limit alcohol

Limit alcohol to 2 standard drinks per day and have at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.
A standard drink is 100ml of wine, 285ml of full-strength beer, or 30ml of spirits.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.  It is never too late to quit smoking.  Your body starts to repair itself 6 hours after the last cigarette.

Find bowel cancer early: from the age of 50 do the National Bowel Cancer Screening kit every two years.

Every two years, all Tasmanians aged 50-74 receive a free bowel screening kit in the mail.  It is important to have your address details up to date with Medicare to ensure you will receive the kit.

This simple test can help stop bowel cancer from developing by finding pre-cancerous changes in the bowel or help find cancer in its early stages.  When it is detected early, 9 out of 10 cases of bowel cancer can be treated successfully, so remember to “Poo, Poke, Post”, and do your test!

Bowel cancer can develop with no signs, but symptoms may include: blood in your bowel motions or rectal bleeding, persistent pain in the abdomen, unexplained tiredness or weight loss, and persistent change in bowel habit such as diarrhoea, constipation or going to the toilet more often.

If you have any of these symptoms, do not delay – it is important to talk to your doctor.

For more information see:


Contributed by Population Screening and Cancer Prevention, Tasmanian Health Service
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