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Useful & Interesting Articles

Bowel Cancer - possible new cause

In the UK Bowel cancer (or colon cancer as it is sometimes called) is presently the 3rd most common cancer behind breast cancer and lung cancer. The precise cause of bowel cancer is, as yet, not known, however, there are known to be certain factors risk factors, such as a strong family history of the disease and old age.

Very recently 2 independent research teams have found a bacterium calledFusobacterium in colon tumours. This common bacterium is known to cause dental decay and skin ulcers and now it seems may also be linked to bowel cancer. Other bacteria and viruses have been linked positively to cancers,  for example, HPV and cervical cancer.

Infection by Fusobacterium has already been linked with a bowel condition called ulcerative colitis and this is itself a risk factor for bowel cancer. It's not yet clear if the infection causes cancerous changes or whether it is just an incidental finding but if, following further research, it does appear to be a causative factor then antibiotics might be able to treat it and thus prevent cancer.

Even so it wise to be watchful particularly if you are over 40 and take an annual bowel cancer test.  Common bowel cancer symptoms include

A persistent change in your normal bowel habit;  going to the toilet more often, diarrhoea, especially if you notice bleeding from your back passage.

Bleeding from the back passage without any reason (such us piles), particularly over the age of 50.

A lump in your tummy or  your back passage (which may felt by a doctor upon examination)

Unexplained iron deficiency in men or in women after the menopause.

Unexplained extreme tiredness.

Also even if infection by Fusobacterium does turn out to be a cause it is likely to be only one of many and therefore we should continue to observe the standard advice to help reduce the risk  bowel cancer - not smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and BMI, keeping physically  active, reducing the amount of red and processed meat in our diets and eating more fibre.