An alliance of 20 MPs including the health minister, Baroness Jay, backed an appeal by Kellogg's and the Cancer Research Campaign to increase consumption of high-fibre cereals such as All-Bran as a defence against Britain's second commonest - and least discussed - cause of cancer deaths.
Bowel cancer kills 49 people every day but half the 31,000 cases of the disease in the UK each year could be prevented if people ate more cereal fibre, fruit and vegetables, health conscious MPs said. As well as saving lives, NHS costs would be cut by pounds 84m.
An opinion poll published yesterday by the Cancer Research Campaign - which is receiving pounds 1m over three years from Kellogg's - showed that 84 per cent of people were unaware that bowel cancer was a significant health threat, and less than 30 per cent knew that it was preventable.
The alliance said greater priority must be given to educating the public about the risks of disease - it kills two out of three people who are diagnosed as having it - if the recently published Government target for reducing cancer is to be achieved. Ministers pledged to cut the number of cancer deaths among under-65s by at least a fifth by 2010 in the Green Paper, Our Healthier Nation, published last month.
Baroness Jay said: "We are committed to reducing cancer deaths in this country and we wholeheartedly endorse this campaign to encourage people to help themselves with simple dietary measures."
Professor Gordon McVie, director-general of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "pounds 84m of the NHS spend on bowel cancer treatment and diagnosis and the incalculable cost of human suffering could be saved each year if only more people knew about prevention."
The campaign, launched yesterday in the House of Commons, has been spearheaded by the Liberal Democrat president, Robert Maclennan, and follows an Early Day Motion signed by dozens of MPs.