18/04/2012 08:27 BST

Bowel Cancer Awareness: 60% Of Brits Aren't Getting ‘Five-A-Day'

According to recent research by Bupa, Brits are heading towards a potential bowel cancer epidemic, as 60% admit they’re not eating their five-a-day.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. Around five in 100 people will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.

Changing diet habits is the first step towards reducing the risk of bowel cancer, however a large proportion of Brits are ignoring this advice and continue to avoid their recommended daily fruit and vegetable allowance.

During the study, researchers discovered that 60% of British people shun their five-a-day, men being the worst offenders with a mere 37% admitting to eating the optimum amount of fruit and veg each day.

As a nation, only 45% of Brits consider themselves ‘healthy’ when describing their eating habits.

“It is worrying to think that over half of the population are not eating enough portions of fruit and vegetables each day,” Bupa's medical director, Dr Katrina Herren, told HuffPost Lifestyle.

“What we put in our body can have a direct impact on our health; a healthy diet, which includes lots of fruit and vegetables, cannot only help with preventing bowel cancer but can also help you to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and cancer.”

Health experts recommend that in order to beat bowel cancer, people have to improve their eating habits by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. The foods you should be eating are:

  • Five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Foods that are high in fibre, such as wholegrain bread, cereals and wholemeal pasta
  • Non-processed foods, such as meat, red meat and foods high in saturated fat

Five easy ways to get your five-a-day...

Interesting Ways To Get Your Five-A-Day

Sadly, Brits aren’t only letting their health down in the dietary stakes – they also feel ‘too shy’ to visit their doctor if they suspect something is wrong with their bowel.

According to recent research by Bowel Cancer UK, over a quarter of Britons are ‘put off’ going to their GP with a potentially serious symptom because they’re worried about the diagnosis and feel ‘embarrassed’.

Despite around 80% of people being aware of the common symptoms of bowel cancer, 23% admit to being too scared to book the appointment and 22% feel too self-conscious discussing their symptoms with a doctor.

Deborah Alsina from the charity said in a statement: "It's good news that people are now more likely to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer.

“However it's deeply worrying if they are still unwilling to act upon them. I can't stress enough how important it is for people to go to their doctor if they have concerns, it really might save their life."

What is bowel cancer?

According to Bowel Cancer UK: “Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal or colon cancer. Nearly all bowel cancers develop in the large bowel - two-thirds of these are in the colon and one-third in the rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from polyps which are usually non-cancerous and, once detected, can be removed easily if caught early enough.

Spotting the signs early is crucial, as a higher number of people beat bowel cancer the earlier it is detected. However, this type of cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose, as symptoms can be vague and can be another underlying health problem.

The most common symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A change in bowel habit lasting for 3 weeks or more especially to looser or runny poo
  • Unexplained weight-loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

“Most people may experience some of these symptoms from time to time and it can be embarrassing topic to discuss. However, if you experience any of these symptoms you must visit your GP,” says Dr Herren.

Worried about bowel cancer? Take a look at these simple lifestyle changes you can make today which will help prevent you against the disease:

Interesting Ways To Get Your Five-A-Day