BBC journalist and newsreader George Alagiah has died aged 67 after a battle with bowel cancer but what signs should you look out for?

Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and leads to around 16,800 deaths every year.

More than nine out of 10 cases of bowel cancer develop in older adults over the age of 50 and nearly six in 10 are in people aged 70 or older.

In 2014, the BBC newsreader was diagnosed with stage four (advanced) bowel cancer.

It had spread to his lungs, liver, spine and lymph nodes by the age of 66.

What are the main symptoms of bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer’s three main symptoms are:

  • Having persistent blood in the stools
  • An ongoing change in bowel habit (such as needing to go more often or suffering the runs)
  • Persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort

Some people may also notice a loss of appetite or significant, unintentional weight loss.

What increases the risk of bowel cancer?

Some things are known to increase the risk of bowel cancer but they can’t explain every case.

Here are some of the things that can increase the risk:

  • A diet high in red or processed meats and low in fibre
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not taking enough exercise
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Being a smoker
  • Having a family history of the disease

Some people will have an increased risk of bowel cancer due to another long-term condition they already have, including extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

Is bowel cancer hereditary?

Cancer Research UK says family members have an increased chance of bowel cancer if the gene changes are inherited.

You can find out more about bowel cancer via the Cancer Research UK website.

What is a bowel cancer kit and who can get one?

Bowel cancer screening is offered to people aged 60 to 74 and they will be sent a home stool kit every two years.

Anyone who is aged 75 or over can ask for a kit every two years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

In its later stages, bowel cancer can be very difficult to treat but in the early stages, tumours can often be removed through surgery.

How is bowel cancer treated?

Bowel cancer’s main treatments include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted drugs which depend on the genetic makeup of the tumour.

During their lifetime, one in 15 men and one in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Expert predictions are that 53,646 cases of bowel cancer (29,356 in men and 24,290 in women) will be diagnosed in the UK in 2035.