Bowel health & diabetes 1 June 2013 It is important to be aware of the link between diabetes and Bowel Cancer. If you are living with type 2 diabetes your risk of developing bowel cancer is 30 per cent higher than people who do not. Both men and women are at risk of developing bowel cancer and men are at even higher risk. Ninety per cent of bowel cancers can be cured if found early. A bowel screening test is the best way of finding bowel cancer in its early stages, before there are symptoms. People over 50 years of age need to be screened for bowel cancer at least every two years. This doesn’t mean those under 50 can’t develop bowel cancer. If you have a strong family history, a change in bowel patterns and or see blood in your bowel motions, it is essential you talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you are over 50 and are sent a bowel screening test kit (Faecal Occult Blood Test or FOBT) in the mail â€“ it is important that you take it. If you haven’t been sent one or are worried about your bowel health, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. The Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) is a simple test that picks up hidden traces of blood in a bowel motion. Blood in your faeces does not always mean you have bowel cancer; however you should have further tests to investigate the cause. An FOBT can be done at home by taking tiny samples from two bowel motions using a test kit. At this stage there are no recommendations to screen all people with diabetes for bowel cancer as more research is needed. However for people living with diabetes there are factors that can improve blood glucose levels and prevent diabetes complications that can reduce their risk of bowel cancer. These include: Losing weight or maintaining a healthy body weight Being more active (see the National Physical Activity Guidelines For Adults for information) Eating more fibre, including fresh fruit and vegetables (see healthy eating for adults for recommendations) Limiting your alcohol intake If you smoke â€“ QUIT! There is strong evidence to suggest that maintaining high levels of vitamin D is also protective against bowel cancer. Vitamin D is linked to improving natural insulin production. You can see your doctor to have your vitamin D levels checked and discuss taking supplements. For more information see the Bowel Cancer Australia or Cancer Council websites. For information on Vitamin D and bowel cancer see the Vitamin Council website.