Surprise: The long-held theory that fat causes colon cancer while fiber prevents it has not panned out, says cancer-diet researcher John Baron, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School. Example: A new Harvard analysis of 726,000 people finds no link between colorectal cancer and a lack of fiber from cereals, fruits and vegetables.
Your best bets are to see your doctor about screening and:
Restrict red meat, especially cooked well-done, Baron says. In a major study of 478,000 people, those who ate 6 ounces of red and/or processed meat daily were one-third more likely to have colon cancer than those who ate less than 1 ounce a day.
Eat fish. On the other hand, people who eat 3 ounces of fish a day have one-third lower risk than those eating less than 2.5 ounces of fish a week. Poultry had no effect on colon cancer.
Go easy on alcohol. Two drinks a day boost colon cancer risk 16%, and three drinks daily raise it 40%, finds Harvard research.
Eat cruciferous vegetables. Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower have anti-carcinogens.
Get calcium and D. Baron found that 1,200mg a day of calcium carbonate cut the recurrence of polyps (tiny growths that can lead to cancer) by 19% in a four-year test. In other research, 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day cut colon cancer risk 50%.
Watch your weight. Obese or overweight men are 2 1/2 times more likely to have colon cancer, according to a new German study.
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Scientific sources for this article
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Colon cancer and red meat, fish, poultry
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Colon cancer and alcohol
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Colon cancer and crucifers
Interview with John Baron, M.D., Dartmouth Medical School
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Colon cancer and body weight
Rapp K, Br J Cancer 2005 Oct 31;93(9): 1062-7
Colon cancer and calcium
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This EatSmart column is reprinted from USAWEEKEND Magazine and is copyrighted by Jean Carper. It cannot be reprinted without permission from Jean Carper.