Dietary changes don't prevent recurrent polyps, eight-center study shows

The Polyp Prevention Trial, one of the largest studies aimed at preventing colon cancer by dietary change, came to an unexpected conclusion:

"The Polyp Prevention Trial provided no evidence that adopting a low-fat, high-fiber fruit- and vegetable-enriched eating plan reduces the incidence of colorectal cancer," according to a report in today's (April 20) issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study, which involved Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and seven other centers, tested the effect of diet on recurrence of intestinal polyps. Polyps are considered a precursor of cancer of the colon. The research team had hoped that the study would establish the importance of diet in preventing this cancer.

Instead, for people who already have had polyps, the research team is now recommending regular screening and colonoscopies, according to Elaine Lanza, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, national co-principal investigator.

"This has led us in other directions in preventing colon cancer," said M. Robert Cooper, M.D., principal investigator at Wake Forest and professor of internal medicine (hematology/oncology).

Besides Medical Center patients, Cooper's team recruited participants from private practicing gastroenterologists in Forsyth County, Charlotte, Greensboro, Burlington and Statesville. Half the patients were assigned to the dietary group, half to a control group.

The diet included five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day, at least 18 grams of dietary fiber a day for every 1000 calories, and no more than 20 percent of daily calories from fat. The participants on the diet also were assigned a nutritionist for counseling and attended more than 50 hours of individual and group dietary counseling sessions.

The control group got general dietary guidelines from the National Dairy Council -- but no additional nutritional or behavioral help. The trial lasted for four years. Doctors repeated

Contact: Robert Conn, Mark Wright or Jim Steele
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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