Following are some risk factors that may increase the chance of developing a gut cancer:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Diet high in animal fat
  • Diet containing high amounts of salted, cured, or poorly preserved foods
  • A diet low in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Increasing age

Based on the known risk factors for gut cancer, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer:

  • Do not smoke
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit
  • Limit your intake of alcohol

For more information on nutrition recommendations and recipes, see nutrition & recipes

  • Being aware of medical conditions that may increase your risk of developing gut cancers
  • Having a better understanding of your gut health and learning about the way your body naturally functions so that you can recognise any changes in bowel habits
  • Participate in the free Bowel Screening Aotearoa after the age of 60 years (to be rolled out throughout New Zealand by 2020).

Useful websites:

What about family history?

Genetic inheritance (family history of cancer) can be a factor in some cancers. In some of these cases, screening is available that may help to identify a cancer and allow surgery or treatment at an earlier stage. If you’re aware of a strong family history of gut cancer, discuss this with your GP.

The New Zealand Familial GI Cancer Service is a national service funded by the Ministry of Health. It has offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There is a multidisciplinary team that specialises in the assessment and management of familial GI or gut cancer. The team consists of family history assessors, genetic counsellors, gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, oncologists and geneticists.

What do they do?

  • Offer assessment of bowel cancer risk for people with a family history of gut cancer
  • Facilitate the diagnosis of hereditary cancer by confirming the family history
  • Offer surveillance recommendations
  • Co-ordinate surveillance for high-risk families
  • Offer specialist management advice
  • Provide information for families on familial gut cancer


Freephone: 0800 554 555