There are some risk factors that may increase the chance of developing this type of cancer. These include:

  • 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 GI 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 GI cancers
  • Having a better understanding of your gastro-intestinal 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 GI 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 GI cancer, discuss this with your GP.

New Zealand Familial GI Cancer Service:

The New Zealand Familial GI Cancer Service is a national service funded by the Ministry of Health and has offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. There is a multidisciplinary team that specialises in the assessment and management of familial GI 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 GI 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 GI cancer


Freephone: 0800 554 555