Bowel cancer briefsheet
Bowel cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer in the UK. Each year,
nearly 40,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with the disease and it claims around 16,000 lives.*
Thanks to our supporters, Cancer Research UK is the largest funder of bowel cancer research in the UK.
Facts and figures Our impact What could affect
• Bowel cancer accounts for one in • Our research into bowel cancer goes
eight new cancer cases in the UK. back to the 1920s when we supported your risk?
Dr Cuthbert Dukes. His team devised
• It is the second most common cause Age
of cancer death in the UK, claiming the Dukes staging system to classify
The risk of bowel cancer increases
around 44 lives each day. bowel cancer, which is still used today.
with age. More than nine out of ten
• Half of patients diagnosed with bowel • Our scientists located a gene called cases occur in people over 50.
cancer will survive their disease for at APC. Faults in this gene are associated
with an extremely high risk of A previous polyp or bowel cancer
least 10 years. If you have had a polyp removed from
developing bowel cancer.
What is bowel cancer? • We funded pivotal clinical trials that have
your bowel, or if you have had bowel
cancer before, you are at increased
The cells lining the inside of the bowel are changed the way bowel cancer patients risk of developing the disease.
constantly dying and being replaced with are treated.
new cells. If the genes in some of these cells Chronic bowel inflammation
• Our strong campaigning efforts helped
become damaged, then this process of People with Crohn’s disease, or a
make a life-saving bowel screening
renewal can go wrong. These abnormal cells condition called ulcerative colitis
programme a reality.
can form a polyp, a small ‘mushroom- have a slightly increased risk of
shaped’ growth. Polyps are usually harmless bowel cancer.
but some can develop into cancer. Over
time, some of the cancer cells can break
Bowel cancer screening Diet
away and spread to other parts of the body, If detected at an early stage, more A diet that is high in red or processed
making the cancer more difficult to treat. than eight out of ten cases of bowel meat, or low in fibre can increase the
cancer can be successfully treated. risk of bowel cancer.
Professor Wendy Atkin (London) Weight
liver coordinated a national trial, which Being overweight increases the risk of
we helped fund, of a revolutionary bowel cancer.
stomach screening test known as flexible
sigmoidoscopy (also known as Physical activity
“flexi sig”). This involves inserting The more active a person is, the lower
large a flexible plastic tube, fitted with a their risk of bowel cancer.
miniature camera, into the bowel to Smoking and alcohol
small detect and remove polyps before Drinking alcohol increases the risk of
bowel they can develop into cancer. bowel cancer. Smoking also increases
The test can also be used to detect the risk of the disease.
rectum existing bowel cancers so that the Family history
patient can receive appropriate Around one third of cases are thought
treatment. Based on the success to be inherited. Some people are born
How is bowel cancer treated? of this trial, flexi sig will soon be with a higher risk of bowel cancer due
Surgery is the main treatment for bowel incorporated into a national bowel to inheriting a faulty gene from one or
cancer, but chemotherapy and radiotherapy screening programme where it could both of their parents. Other people
may also be given. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is the reduce the bowel cancer death rate inherit a combination of gene variants
most common drug used in chemotherapy. among those screened by 43 per cent, that each contribute to a small
Other drugs include capecitabine, irinotecan, saving thousands of lives each year. increase in risk.
oxaliplatin and utforal.
May 2011 *latest available figures
Our research into bowel cancer
People diagnosed with bowel cancer are twice as likely to survive their disease for at least ten
years than those diagnosed in the 1970s and we are at the heart of this progress. We spent nearly
£25 million on bowel cancer research last year – here are just a few examples of our life-saving work:
Understanding bowel cancer Prevention and early detection Improving treatment
Understanding how bowel cancer cells Our researchers want to help identify people We are committed to finding better ways
behave will help us design better strategies to most in need of personalised screening and to treat bowel cancer. In Leeds, Professor
prevent, detect and target the disease. prevention advice. Professors Ian Tomlinson David Sebag-Montefiore is conducting a
Professor Alan Ashworth (London) is (Oxford), Malcolm Dunlop (Edinburgh), and clinical trial to see if new drug combinations
studying the genetic faults that lie at the heart Richard Houlston (London) are hunting for improve patient survival. One of our
of bowel cancer growth. His team has already genes associated with increased risk of bowel Birmingham-based surgeons, Jim Hill, is
found an important ‘Achilles’ heel’ in bowel cancer. Professors Roland Wolf (Dundee) and tackling the problem of bowel obstruction.
cancer cells so his next challenge is to Tim Bishop (Leeds) are studying how He is investigating whether putting an
translate this knowledge into safer, more combinations of lifestyle and genetics affect expanding tube (a stent) in the bowel is
effective treatments for patients. bowel cancer risk. more effective than emergency surgery.
Other research highlights from across the UK
1 Dundee: Professor Inke Näthke is using stem
cells from the gut to understand how bowel cancer 2 Belfast: Professor Paddy Johnston wants to
develops. This could pave the way for improved identify genes that control the response of
methods to detect and treat this disease. bowel cancer cells to chemotherapy.
1 This could lead to the development
3 Leeds: Professor Eva Morris is looking at the of more effective drugs.
links between inequalities of bowel cancer care
and survival. This will help ensure that all bowel
cancer patients receive the best possible care. 4 Cambridge: Dr Ashraf Ibrahim is looking
2 at ways to diagnose bowel cancer
at a very early stage when it can
5 Cardiff: Professor Alan Clarke be successfully treated.
is searching for molecules made by
bowel cancer cells that could be
targeted by new drugs.
6 London: Dr Charles Swanton is
4 trying to understand why some
7 Southampton: Professor 5 bowel cancers become resistant
John Primrose is asking whether 6 to treatment. This could help
a drug called cetuximab improves doctors predict who will benefit
survival in patients with advanced most from a particular drug.
‘When I was told the tests had discovered a cancerous growth in The Bobby Moore Fund for
my bowel, my world just turned upside down. But I was hopeful Cancer Research UK raises
I had caught it quickly enough so it could be dealt with.’ money for our research into
Jim Scott, 62, thought that he was in perfect health but when his bowel cancer in memory of
home screening test for bowel cancer arrived, he did it anyway – footballer Bobby Moore, who
a decision that probably saved his life. He was called in for further sadly died from bowel cancer, aged just 51.
tests that revealed a tumour in his bowel. Fortunately, his cancer was
To date, the Fund has raised over £17 million
caught early and although he had extensive surgery, he didn’t need
any chemotherapy or radiotherapy. He is now passionate about raising for dedicated bowel cancer research.
awareness and increasing participation in bowel cancer screening. For more information,
‘Without my early diagnosis, I wouldn’t be here to tell my story.’ please visit www.bobbymoorefund.org
Cancer Research UK Tel: +44 (0)20 7242 0200
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