The following article has kindly been written for us by Bowel & Cancer Research.
Bowel & Cancer Research believes that no one should die of bowel cancer or have to live with chronic bowel disease.
To move us towards this vision we fund the best research across the UK into bowel cancer and other bowel diseases. We support our next generation of research experts through a dedicated Ph.D. studentship programme. We aim to improve diagnostics and treatments to save and change lives. As more people survive bowel cancer we support research to improve their quality of life.
A key focus for us in terms of saving lives from bowel cancer is prevention. Avoiding the diagnosis in the first place is preferable for everyone. Lifestyle is a major factor in preventing bowel cancer. In fact up to half of all bowel cancer diagnoses can be attributed to how we live our modern lives. And the most important of these is obesity. In fact, some say that in terms of health impact, obesity is the new smoking – and there’s a good reason for this.
Today it’s widely accepted that smoking causes cancer. Lung cancer is still the biggest cancer killer in the UK with around 35,000 annual deaths. Deaths caused by bowel cancer are around 16,000 in comparison. 72% of lung cancer deaths are preventable – by not smoking. Since the 1970s the proportion of smokers in the UK has fallen from 45% to 16%. This was helped by the evidence presented by the science, legislation and government-funded public awareness campaigns.
And of course, we’re all getting bigger. Back to the previous point, obesity, particularly carrying weight around your middle is the key risk factor for bowel cancer. Currently, bowel cancer rates are remaining fairly stable. They are even expected to fall in the future but with an increase in IBD and obesity this may turn out to be optimistic.
What does the science tell us?
So, at Bowel & Cancer Research, we are as dedicated to prevention as to cure. We know that it’s not as easy as simply telling people to eat less and take more exercise. The scientific evidence shows us that once people get overweight their physiology changes. This means that the way their bodies deal with food changes and this is incredibly difficult to reverse once the change has taken place.
We are therefore funding a ground-breaking study at Queen Mary University in London. It has identified the hormones that cause us to feel full (and stop eating). Not many people know that it’s not actually your brain that tells you that you’re hungry – it’s your gut. Specifically, the way that hormones signal to your brain to tell you to eat. We’re looking at manipulating these hormones – using natural ingredients in capsule form – to reduce appetite and re-regulate the physiology. We’ve already done an interesting pilot study with 20 human volunteers. During 2020 we aim to extend this with the intention of driving weight loss. If successful this could mean the end to gastric bypass surgery.