Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Take Action to Reduce your Risk

The Irish Cancer Society estimates that up to 2,800 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer this year, and more than 1,000 people will die from it. However, with a growing, ageing population, the National Cancer Registry projects the number of diagnoses to reach over 5,700 by 2045. The good news is that bowel cancer is highly preventable and treatable if diagnosed early through screening. Reducing how much alcohol you drink is just one of the ways you can lower your cancer risk – why not take some time this month to get the facts about alcohol make small changes to drink less?

BowelScreen – the HSE’s National Bowel Screening Programme – is offering the following tips to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer:

  • be more physically active;
  • eat a diet with plenty of dietary fibre such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, brown rice and cereals;
  • reduce intake of processed and red meat;
  • keep a healthy weight;
  • limit the amount of alcohol you take;
  • take part in the BowelScreen programme when invited.


Keep any eye on how much you drink on average each week. Sticking to the HSE weekly low-risk alcohol guidelines can help to reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer and a range of other health conditions. Remember, these are guidelines – not a target. 

  • Women: Less than 11 standard drinks (110g pure alcohol) spread out over the week, with at least two alcohol-free days
  • Men: Less than 17 standard drinks (170g pure alcohol) spread out over the week, with at least two alcohol-free days

Try out our drinks calculator to see if you are drinking within the guidelines


Stuck for ideas? Here are some small steps you could take to drink less alcohol and improve your health and wellbeing. The next time you drink alcohol, why not try some of our quick tips? Remember, everyone’s motivation for drinking less is different so it’s important to choose small steps that work for you.

  • Always use a standard drink measure instead of free pouring spirits or wine at home. Order one for free
  • Finish one glass before refilling. Topping up your glass makes it harder to track how much you’re drinking.
  • Stay out of rounds – you may end up drinking far more than you intended as you are more likely to drink at the pace of the fastest person in the group.
  • Set yourself a limit on a night out. If you usually go for an after-work drink on a Friday, why not set a limit on the number of drinks you will have in advance? Keeping this number in mind will help you to keep track and stick to it.
  • Alternate each drink with a glass of water to reduce the dehydration associated with alcohol. Keep a jug of water on the table to make this easier.
  • Take advantage of the increasingly available lower or no-alcohol beer or wine and swap out your usual drink.
  • Break your habits at home. This can seem like a nice way to unwind after a long day but it can often result in drinking more than usual. If your normal night in includes a drink in front of the TV, consider doing something different like going for a walk or try not to keep alcohol in the house.
  • If you would like to stop drinking completely, we have some advice to help.

Read more about alcohol and cancer