HARTLEPOOL has the highest rates of deaths from bowel cancer in England.
Statistics compiled by Beating Bowl Cancer researchers show a rate of 26 people per 100,000 die of the disease in town each year.
It is the worst figure in the country, and well above the national average of 17 per 100,000.
The lowest can be found in Rossendale, Lancashire, where the number drops to just nine deaths from bowel cancer per 100,000 population.
Anil Agarawal, consultant surgeon at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said there are easy steps people can take to reduce the risk of developing the disease.
He said: “Diet can be a major contributory factor in increasing the risk of bowel cancer.
“A diet high in processed foods and foods that contain large amounts of red and processed meat together with a low intake of dietary fibre can greatly add to the risk.
“High alcohol consumption, particularly binge drinking, will also increase the risk of contracting bowel cancer as well as many other associated health problems.
“To reduce the risks people should try to eat a balanced diet, cut down on fatty and processed foods, try to eat fresh fruit and vegetables and foods that are high in fibre, such as wholegrain bread and cereals.
“A lack of physical exercise has now been identified as a major risk factor for developing bowel cancer. The more active you are, the more you cut your risk of bowel cancer.
“Above all recognise the symptoms. If you notice blood in your stools, a persistent change in bowel habits, abdominal pain or unexplained tiredness or dizziness you should book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.
“Bowel cancer is treatable if caught early and the sooner you can get treatment the more chance you have of beating it.”
Beating Bowel Cancer believes that more than 5,000 lives could be saved every year due to the wide variation in the rate of deaths depending on which part of the country people live.
The organisation says the causes of the variations are not clear.
But factors such as low participation in bowel cancer screening, poor awareness of bowel cancer symptoms and unhealthy diets and lifestyles, all play a part.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “Too many people are dying from bowel cancer, no matter where they live. Deaths from bowel cancer could, and should, be much less common.
“Early diagnosis is key, so today we are calling on people to take responsibility for their bowel cancer risk.
“People can give themselves a life-saving chance by being aware of bowel cancer symptoms and taking part in bowel cancer screening when it is offered to them.”
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