All Australians are being encouraged to seek out hair (or stubble) raising adventures this month to help raise awareness for the country’s second-largest cancer killer – bowel cancer.


Dubbed Decembhair, the annual event sees all Aussies asked to ‘be bold for bowel cancer’ by radically altering the appearance of their hair or beard by colouring, growing, shaving, trimming or waxing their locks or other body hair to raise funds for further research into the disease.  


Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer can affect any part of the colon or rectum, which are parts of the large intestine. Symptoms may vary from person to person, however typically include a persistent change in bowel habit, changes in shape or appearance of your number twos, unexplained anaemia, frequent gas pain or cramps, abdominal swelling and/or associated pain.


Bowel cancer claims the lives of 5,350 Australians every year, equating to more than 100 each week. It is the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia. Each year, more than 15,500 Australians, or 299 a week, are told they have bowel cancer. 


Around 30 percent of people who develop bowel cancer have a hereditary contribution or family history, or a combination of both. 


Unfortunately, the risk of getting bowel cancer also increases with age, with figures from 2020 showing bowel cancer to be the fourth leading cause of death in those aged 65 to 74, after lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 


In those aged 75 to 84, it is the sixth leading cause of death after coronary heart disease, dementia, lung cancer, cerebrovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 


The disease does not discriminate between genders, with males accounting for 54 percent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer and females the remainder.


However, according to industry body Bowel Cancer Australia (BCA), the news isn’t all bad – with 99 percent of bowel cancer cases able to be treated successfully if found early.


The introduction of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has gone a long way to lowering the number of deaths from bowel cancer in this country. The program ensures those aged 50 to 74 receive a taxpayer-funded test in the mail, which is sent to a laboratory for analysis.


People with cancers diagnosed through the program have a 40 percent lower risk of dying than those who have not been screened.