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Dietary changes can lower colon cancer risk in families with a history of the disease

BOSTON People who have a parent or sibling with colon cancer can markedly reduce their own chances of developing the disease by taking a daily multivitamin that includes folic acid and limiting their intake of alcohol, according to a new study by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Womens Hospital and Harvard School of Public Health.

The findings, published in the March issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, join a small but growing body of evidence that dietary and behavioral changes can reduce the risk of some cancers in people who may have an inherited tendency to develop them.

Previous research has demonstrated that peoples risk of developing colon cancer is two times greater if they have a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with the disease, says study leader Charles Fuchs, MD, of Dana-Farber. Our study points to steps that such individuals can take to substantially lower those odds.

With approximately 135,000 new cases reported each year, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, and it is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Studies have shown that a variety of diet and behavioral modifications such as stopping smoking, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, avoiding heavy red meat consumption, and having regular colon exams after age 50 can reduce colon cancer risk in the general population. In the new study, Fuchs and his colleagues asked whether any of these measures are especially effective in people with a family history of the disease.

For answers, the researchers turned to the Nurses Health Study, a project which has been tracking the health of 121,700 female registered nurses in the United States for more than 25 years. The study, run by researchers at BWH, maintains an extensive databank of participants dietary and lifestyle habits, making it possible to explore the relation between peoples behavior and their ris
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-4090
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
14-Mar-2002


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