3 January 2022

Forty one percent are seeking to lose weight by controlling more carefully what they eat and drink, while almost a quarter (23%) said they would attempt to lose weight through more exercise or exercising more vigorously.

Obesity increases the risk of developing bowel cancer by at least 30%, and a diet low in fibre and high in red and processed meat increases the risk further. In the survey, almost two thirds (64%) believed their weight could have either a major or minor effect of developing bowel cancer, while approaching 7 in 10 (68%) felt what they ate was also a risk factor for the disease.

Adult obesity is also a concern of government. It looked at the issue of adult and child obesity, and in March 2017 it published the results of a survey that found nearly two thirds of adults were either overweight or obese, with a similar prevalence of obesity among men and women.

This means healthcare officials and politicians may find it heartening to learn that eight in 10 respondents to the Bowel Research UK survey saying they would either definitely or probably seek to reduce their weight if they knew it would lead to a reduced risk of bowel cancer, while approaching half (47%) said they would take immediate action if advised to lose weight by a medical professional.

This said, only 45% of respondents knew their precise weight at the moment, and 10% hadn’t weighed themselves for over six months. Eighteen percent had weighed themselves in the last week, while six percent said they couldn’t remember or never had weighed themselves.

In terms of an ideal weight based on their height, nearly half (48%) only a had a rough idea of what this should be, while around a quarter (23%) did not know what their weight should be.  Twenty-eight per cent said they knew their ideal weight range.

In terms of eating habits, nearly a third (31%) of respondents said they always tended to finish meals even when full, and 46% admitted to doing this sometimes.

Perhaps worryingly for public health experts, 29% said they did not check on packaged food items for calories, fat, and sugar before they bought them, and 47% said they only sometimes checked food labels.

Dr Lesley Booth, Director of Research and Patient & Public Involvement at Bowel Research UK, comments:

“Bowel Research UK commissioned our survey because there is a correlation between diet, obesity and bowel cancer, so we wanted to understand how well these risk factors were considered by the public and also their general approaches to regulating their weight through diet and exercise.

“In many ways the results are encouraging. The majority of the people we surveyed thought there were risks of developing bowel cancer associated with their weights and diets, and almost half would take immediate action to lose weight if advised to by a medical professional. That said, when over 16,000 people die every year from bowel cancer there is always room for improvement when it comes to early detection of the disease and in preventative measures, such as remaining a healthy weight, keeping active and eating a balanced diet.”