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Preventing Colorectal Cancer

New research shows taking vitamin D and consuming a diet high in fiber may reduce the risk of polyps, or tumors, that can lead to colon cancer.//

Researchers from 13 Veterans Affairs medical centers studied more than 3,100 patients between ages 50 and 75. Results of their study show men who consume more than four grams of cereal fiber per day and more than 645 international units of vitamin D per day are less likely to have serious colon polyps. Researchers also found men who take a daily aspirin are only two-thirds as likely to have a tumor. Exercise, calcium, folic acid and multivitamins also play a minimal role in preventing polyps from forming.

Researchers also found smoking increases a person’s risk of developing colon polyps. In the current study, smoking increased the risk of having a tumor or benign polyp by nearly two-fold. Researchers say having a relative with colorectal cancer also increases a patient’s risk, but not as much as smoking does. Patients who consume red meat and alcohol also have a slightly higher risk of developing the cancer.

David Lieberman, M.D., from Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, says, “The finding that may surprise the scientific community is the vitamin D data ... There have been some studies suggesting this, but our data are compelling.”

Colorectal cancer affects about 55,000 people in the United States but is considered one of the most preventable cancers. Doctors recommend that patients eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber. They also say vitamin D, calcium, folic acid, vitamin E, and selenium appear to help prevent the disease. However, Dr. Lieberman warns vitamin D, when taken in large amounts, can be toxic and cause nausea and constipation.

Dr. Leiberman concludes, “This data support relatively simple and safe recommendations that may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Stop smoking, reduce alcohol and red meat consumptio n, take a multivitamin, exercise regularly, and consume vitamin D, calcium and cereal fiber in you diet.”

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