By Jane Hart, MD
Healthnotes Newswire (October 1, 2009)—Another study weighs in on the importance of diet and finds that eating healthfully may prevent the return of growths known as adenomatous polyps that increase the risk of colon cancer. In fact, the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that strictly following a low-fat, high-fiber, and high-fruit-and-vegetable diet may prevent the return of polyps by as much as 35%.
Strict diet reduces risk
In this study, researchers analyzed data from 1,905 participants in the US Polyp Prevention Trial examining the effects of following a dietary intervention on polyp recurrence in people with prior history. Researchers monitored the effects of a low-fat, high-fiber, high-fruit-and-vegetable diet on polyp recurrence over a four year period using food frequency questionnaires and colonoscopy screening tests.
People who strictly followed the prescribed diet had 35% reduced odds of any polyp recurrence and 50% reduced odds of multiple or advanced recurrence compared with people who didn’t follow a dietary intervention (control group). There was no difference in recurrence between people who had poor compliance with the diet and the control group.
“These results suggest that consistent adherence to a low-fat, high-fiber, and high-fruit and [high]-vegetable diet may be effective in preventing recurrence of colorectal adenomas and possibly in preventing colorectal cancer,” said Leah B. Sansbury, lead study author from the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
Tips for preventing colon cancer
Adults, especially those over age 50, should take steps toward preventing this common disease. Here are some prevention tips:
• Be aware of risk factors. Common risk factors for colon cancer include a prior history of colon cancer or polyps, a family history of colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease. People over 50 years old and African Americans are also at increased risk. An inactive lifestyle, high-fat diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol drinking may also increase a person’s risk.
• See a doctor for colon screening tests. There are a number of ways a doctor may monitor you for colon cancer including sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy screenings (the doctor uses a scope to examine your colon), checking your stool for blood, and ordering blood tests to see if there are signs of bleeding as suggested, for instance, by a low iron or low red blood cell count.
• See a doctor right away if you see blood in your stools. Blood in your stools or on toilet paper is a sign that something is wrong. The cause of the bleeding may be as simple as hemorrhoids but may also be caused by a bleeding polyp or colon or rectal cancer.
• Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise. As research studies suggest, eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of regular exercise may both be important steps to decrease the risk of colon cancer.
(Am J Epidemiol 2009;170:576–584)
Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.
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