Colon Cancer Prevention (cont.)

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What measures to prevent colo-rectal cancer probably are effective and safe?

Oral supplements of calcium and folic acid, diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and red meat, avoiding obesity, regular exercise, and quitting cigarette smoking are safe measures that probably prevent colo-rectal cancer.

Calcium supplements have been shown in animal and human studies to decrease the number of pre-cancerous polyps. Fruits and vegetables contain many chemicals that inactivate cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens). Obesity, a sedentary life style, cigarette smoking, and high red meat consumption have been linked to an increased risk of colo-rectal cancer. In a large study of nurses, those who took multivitamins that contained folic acid for decades had less colo-rectal cancer than women who did not take multivitamins.

These measures are considered only "probably" effective because long-term, large-scale, properly designed clinical trials have yet to be performed to establish conclusively that these measures actually prevent colo-rectal cancer.

Doctors are willing to prescribe an agent without conclusive proof of its effectiveness as long as it is safe. In many instances, conclusive proof may be many years away.

What prevention measures have been found to be ineffective?

Anti-oxidants are believed to have anti-cancer effects, but clinical trials using the anti-oxidant vitamins C and A have shown no benefit in preventing colo-rectal cancer.

Many agents or measures that are promising because they have theoretical benefits fall short of expectations when subjected to rigorous clinical trials.


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