Bowel cancer preventability statistics

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.

Bowel cancer incidence

In 2013, 42,222 cases of bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, were diagnosed. Of these cancer cases, 23,353 were in men and 18,869 were in women.

Bowel cancer mortality

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. In 2013, there were 16,283 deaths from bowel cancer.

Of these deaths, 8,786 were men and 7,497 were women.

Proportion preventable

Smoking is a risk factor for bowel cancer. However, scientists also estimate the following proportion of bowel cancer cases could be prevented in the UK through healthy changes:

Lifestyle factor Increase or decrease risk? Approximate % preventable
Foods containing fibre Decrease 12
Red meat Increase 5
Processed meat Increase 10
Alcohol Increase 7
Physical activity (colon) Decrease 12
Body fatness Increase 14
Total   45

The evidence also shows that consuming wholegrains, dairy products and calcium supplements reduces the risk of bowel cancer.

Find out more about preventability estimates or, for more detailed information, download appendix A of our policy report.


The figures come from the following sources: incidence for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; mortality for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.