Junk food myth behind second biggest cancer killer
EXCLUSIVE: Nine out of ten Australians wrongly believe that eating junk food is the biggest risk factor for bowel cancer, Australia's second biggest cancer killer.
In fact the biggest risk factor is being aged over 50.
A new survey by the bowel screening program has found just one per cent of people realise that age is a factor in causing the cancer and it could be a key reason why so few people do their free bowel screen test.
Ninety three per cent of bowel cancers are detected in people aged over 50, according to NSW Bowel Cancer Screening Program Manager Christopher Horn.
"You are two and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer in your fifties than your forties," he said.
Even though it is free just 41 per cent of Australians aged over 50 return the bowel cancer screening test sent to them every two years.
Cancer Council Australia said Australians aged 50-54 are the least likely to complete the test. Just three in ten go ahead with the free screen.
Even though they are more likely to get the cancer men are the worst performers at doing the test, with just 28 per cent returning the free kit sent in the mail.
Cancer Council Australia's CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said Australians need to normalise doing the test.
"Of those who had completed the test before - 78 per cent completed the test when they received it the next time around. Once you have done the test once, you realise how simple it is," she said.
Often bowel cancer is a silent disease and the screening test is the best way to catch it early.
When it is found in its early stages 99 per cent of people survive, but only one in eight people survive the cancer when it is diagnosed at its most advanced stage.
Mr Horn said food and exercise plays a role in bowel cancer and people need to eat a diet high in fibre and low in sugar and fat to minimise their risk but age is even more important as a cause.
More than 16,300 Australians will be diagnosed with bowel cancer this year and 5,600 will die from the disease.
All Australians aged over fifty are sent a free bowel screen test every two years.
Jenny Rooney ate well and was superfix running three kilometres a day and swimming 40 laps of the pool when she discovered she had bowel cancer.
"Everybody said I would be the last person you would expect to get bowel cancer because I exercised and ate well," the 55-year-old said.
The Gold Coast grandmother of four said her cancer was accidentally discovered when she was having minor surgery for another ailment.
Later she discovered she carried a genetic mutation called Lynch's Syndrome that increased her chance of developing the cancer.
"I harass everybody when they get their test at age fifty to do the check," she said.
"Just stick a stick in your poop and send it off, it's so much easier than a colonoscopy," she said.