Let’s say for the sake of argument you’d rather not have the same experience as me where Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer is concerned. What can you do to make it so?

It would be advisable to start by asking about family history. I found out after the fact that no less than four of my father’s siblings had suffered from bowel or rectal cancer. That even excludes my father, who died from lung cancer, but then he was a smoker. If there’s a history, there’s a risk, and you shouldn’t wait until your 60th or even your 50th birthday to do something about it.

Maybe you should change your lifestyle? East less red meat, avoid alcohol – that sort of thing. They also say a daily dose of aspirin is good. Probably wouldn’t hurt, but I’m not convinced it would be the silver bullet of prevention.

If it is in your genes, you are at risk. If you have symptoms like rectal bleeding or unexplained pain in your pelvis, you may already be in trouble.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) published a study today that examined 9,000 bowel cancer patients and 5,000 healthy individuals. It found that anyone with two mutations in a certain gene was 28 times more likely to have bowel cancer.

So, you need regular checks – one every year starting from early (age 30, 35, 40?) onwards. Alas, the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme only offers screening every two years to men and women aged 60 to 69. You can get around this by talking to your GP about your specific concern; GP will refer you.

Also, current screening methods are either time consuming and body-intrusive (colonoscopy) or not as reliable as desired (faecal blood checks).

But scientists should crack that problem soon – another study this week found that a blood test check for something called S100A4 was a reliable diagnostic tool. It isn’t so much that there is a ‘killer gene’ present. It’s more to do with something called DNA methylation, which is where key genes are ‘silenced’ and that leads to the initiation and progression of tumours. That methylation leads to the presence of the S100A4 DNA pattern. This will be significantly higher in colorectal or gastric cancer patients than in a tumour-free control group. It’s there in higher levels in patients with metastases than in those without, so it is also a measure of cancer staging.

The Knife – We Share Our Mother’s Health (Ratatat Remix)

Trees there will be
Apples, fruits maybe
You know what I fear
The end is always near