Diet and Selenium can help Prevent Colon Cancer

Posted on Jun 27, 2008 in Cancer, Chronic Disease

From HealthNews.com

For preventing colon cancer (and many other cancers as well), a healthy diet is important. The foods you eat which contribute to colon cancer are excess fat (which can contain cancer-producing chemicals), as well as insufficient fiber.

I also recommend selenium 200 mcg daily (the usual size of a selenium pill). Although large studies are still underway to determine how effective selenium truly is, the balance of evidence in my evaluation suggests that selenium is helpful.

How to Prevent Colon Cancer (and Never Need a Colostomy)

In a previous column, we talked about a checkup you may have missed, and how a colonoscopy is important for the diagnosis of colon cancer. We talked about how national celebrities such as Tony Snow are survivors of colon cancer.

What many people fear about colon cancer is the possibility of needing an operation which sometimes results in having a colostomy: a condition where the rectum is removed and the bowel empties through a hole in the abdominal wall (“a stoma”) and stool collects in a bag which much be disposed of daily. Not to mention, everyone is afraid the doctor will find an incurable cancer that may cause weakness, pain, and death. These can be avoided by cancer prevention!

Step 1 in preventing colon cancer is a colonoscopy. This procedure can prevent colon cancer by removing polyps, and can detect colon cancer at the earliest stages when it is most curable. Check on this website for the previous column on “A Checkup You May Have Missed” which describes colonoscopy and its benefits in your life.

Step 2 is getting the right diet. For preventing colon cancer (and many other cancers as well), a healthy diet is important. The foods you eat which contribute to colon cancer are excess fat (which can contain cancer-producing chemicals), as well as insufficient fiber. So, shop carefully for your foods so that your diet consists of a low fat diet with red meat at most once per week (you can substitute chicken, fish, and even vegetable proteins such as soy proteins for red meat). Your diet should have five helpings of fruits, vegetables, or fruit juices per day. How much is a helping? A helping is about the size of your fist or for juices, at least 4 oz. (half a cup). The diet should be controlled in calories so that you don’t gain weight, but instead maintain a healthy weight for your height (your doctor and the nurses can tell you what this is for your height, or you can find this in a future column on Health News). The best diets in the world have included olive oil in place of other saturated fats, margarine in place of butter, plus a healthy quantity of nuts. Fiber is very important, so be certain that you not only have five helpings of fruits or vegetables, but that you use whole grain breads and even consider adding bran to salads, or low fat bran muffins.

In Step 3. You should consider adding medicines. The medicine I recommend for my patients is…. plain old aspirin. Large studies have indicated that a full-strength aspirin daily will reduce the frequency of colon polyps and colon cancer by about one-third. Prescription medications such as Celebrex can also do this, but concerns have been raised regarding Celebrex and a possible increase in heart disease. In serious situations, such as severe colitis, I prefer to use Celebrex in my patients. If you have colitis, discuss this with your physician.

Should everyone start aspirin? I take aspirin daily, but you should discuss with your doctors or nurses whether you have illnesses that make aspirin dangerous: stomach problems, ulcers, aspirin allergy, other medications with which aspirin interacts badly, bleeding disorders, or kidney problems. When you are starting aspirin, be certain to check with your doctor, and each follow up visit with a doctor or dentist, remind them and the nurses that you are taking aspirin!

Step 4. Now consider adding some over-the-counter medications. In my patients, I recommend calcium (one to three calcium and vitamin D combination pills daily, unless you have kidney stones or high blood calcium which makes calcium supplements dangerous). I also recommend selenium 200 mcg daily (the usual size of a selenium pill). Although large studies are still underway to determine how effective selenium truly is, the balance of evidence in my evaluation suggests that selenium is helpful. Check with your doctor.

There are many nutrients and vitamins which have been suggested by some people to prevent colon cancer. I am not convinced about these yet. These include folic acid, curcumin, vitamin C, pomegranate juice, and fish oil. What do I tell my patients about these? “The evidence is just not in about preventing colon cancer. If you need them for other condition, such as blood clots or prostate enlargement, take them. I recommend that you read HealthNews each week, because when any of these are proven to be helpful it will be a flash news item in this important website”.

These four steps which you can take will help avoid a cancer that is overall the #2 cause of cancer in this country. Start today because “four steps a day keeps colon cancer away.”