Most of us, if we think about it, know someone who has had bowel cancer or died from it. Through my work with Macmillan Cancer Relief and Marie Curie Cancer Care, I have met countless people afflicted with bowel cancer.

Tomorrow I will be launching Loud Tie Day - a day at the beginning of November when all of us, men, women and children, will be encouraged to put on our brightest, boldest neckwear to raise awareness of the second biggest cancer killer in this country. Yet it is a cancer which is very rarely talked about.

Most of us, if we think about it, know someone who has had bowel cancer or died from it. Through my work with Macmillan Cancer Relief and Marie Curie Cancer Care, I have met countless people afflicted with bowel cancer.

This year, well over 30,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease and a significant portion - about 18,500 people - will die.

Yet bowel cancer is one of the most curable, most preventable cancers, if caught early enough.

We could - and should - be saving several thousands of lives a year, many of them younger people with families, with jobs, with untold contributions to make to the communities in which they live. Of course, most people who get cancer are older and bowel cancer is no exception. The average age for developing the disease is the 60s and 70s. But thousands of younger people get bowel cancer every year, too.

Survival rates for victims of bowel cancer in Britain - just 40 per cent - have not improved as fast as in other developed countries. In fact, we have one of the worst survival rates in Europe, and as a nation we spend less than most European countries on treating the disease. Comparisons with the United States are even worse - there 60 per cent of sufferers survive.

One of the problems, I'm sure, is that the British are just not good at talking about health problems in the more private parts of their bodies. But we need to recognise that our 'polite' nature, while often admirable, is probably a significant factor in the poor awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer - which is much easier to detect that most other cancers.

So, if we don't learn to talk about our bowels, don't get to know about the symptoms of this common cancer, people will - I am certain - continue to die unnecessarily.

Bowel cancer is one of the biggest killers of the Western world and, although we do not know exactly what causes it, we do know that altering some of the ways we live could save many lives. Lack of exercise and being overweight are thought to be contributory factors.

Eating large amounts of red meat and processed foods may also increase your risk.

Fruit and vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables, are thought to be protective - as is drinking lots of water.

There is a major role for complementary medicine in bowel cancer - as a support to more conventional approaches - in helping to prevent it through lifestyle changes, helping to boost our immune systems and in helping sufferers to come to terms with, and maintain, a sense of control over their own lives and wellbeing.

My own Foundation For Integrated Medicine is, for example, involved in finding ways to integrate the best of complementary and alternative medicine.

Loud Tie Day was conceived by the former BBC Watchdog presenter Lynn Faulds Wood, to raise awareness of this common cancer. Lynn was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer, out of the blue, nine years ago and now runs the national charity, Beating Bowel Cancer.

She gave up making TV programmes four years ago to concentrate on helping to save lives from the disease. To date, she has helped to develop the first research based guide to the symptoms of bowel cancer in the world, and this new symptoms advice has been officially adopted by the Department of Health.

I urge you to get to know these symptoms and to act on them if you think you might have a problem.

Now the charity is helping to improve the quality and speed of diagnosis in this country, by finding funding for diagnostic training centres of excellence for doctors and local clinics. wo of the country's leading specialists have even given up their work part-time to help the charity on these initiatives.

So this is why I agreed to launch Loud Tie Day, to give everyone advance warning of this splendid opportunity to wear a colourful tie and, in so doing, promote valuable discussion about bowel cancer and its symptoms.

The launch involves the longest, loudest tie ever seen in this country - 14 storeys high and 40ft wide - dropped in seconds down one of the tallest landmark buildings in the capital, the London Television Centre on the South Bank.

The tie, bright red and covered in 6ft-high figures, each representing 1,000 people who will develop bowel cancer this year, was painted by artists, people with bowel cancer and their friends.

I hope you will join with me in raising awareness of bowel cancer - and get to know its symptoms.

You might even wear a loud tie on November 3 - and tell everybody why you are doing so.