Risk factors for colon cancer


• Eating animal products may contribute more to colon cancer risk than not eating enough fiber, suggest researchers who compared the diets of black and white South Africans. This supports the recent large Harvard study that found no role for fiber in preventing colon cancer. Black South Africans, whose diets are low in fiber but who eat little meat, enjoy a low rate of colon cancer. Researchers found they are less likely to show colon cell changes suggestive of a pre-cancerous condition than white South Africans who eat a typical Western diet--low in fiber but high in animal protein and fat.

The American Journal of Gastroenterology, May 1999.

• Women exposed to the most sun and those getting the most dietary vitamin D were less likely to develop breast cancer than those with the least exposure and intake, say researchers who analyzed 20 years of government data. The researchers used sun exposure as a surrogate measure of vitamin D status. However, because increased sun exposure raises the risk of skin cancer, a multivitamin or vitamin D supplement is the safer option.
Cancer Epidemiology, May 1999.

• Treating eczema (atopic dermatitis) with borage seed oil capsules proved to be of limited effectiveness, according to results of a recent double-blind study. Borage seed oil, like evening primrose oil, is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid, a fatty acid thought to help reduce inflammation. More than 150 volunteers with moderate eczema took either 500-milligram capsules of borage oil or a placebo daily for six months. While the overall response to borage seed oil was negligible, a small group of volunteers did show improvement in several symptoms.

British Journal of Dermatology, April 1999.

• Being overweight is less risky as you age, according to German researchers who followed more than 6,000 obese men and women for nearly 15 years. Morbidly obese men and women who were under 30 were the most likely to die of obesity-related causes, whereas moderately obese men and women 50-plus years old were the least likely to die of causes related to being overweight. The researchers suggest that in the absence of medical reasons to lose weight--such as hypertension, heart disease or type 2 diabetes--there isn't necessarily a need for older people to lose weight.
Journal of the American Medical Association, April 28, 1999.

• Eating cooked tomato products may help protect immune cells against DNA damage caused by oxidation, according to Italian researchers. In the study, 10 healthy women ate a diet containing two ounces of tomato puree--rich in the carotenoid lycopene--each day for three weeks, either preceded by or followed by a tomato-free diet for three weeks. The researchers measured blood levels of lycopene and evaluated oxidative damage to cells before and after each phase. They found that cell damage dropped by 33% to 42% after consuming the tomato diet.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 1999.

• A diet high in monounsaturated fats may slow the cognitive losses of aging, including memory, say Italian researchers. In a study of 278 healthy older men and women, those who reported eating the most "mono" fats in the previous year--particularly olive oil--fared better on standard memory and attention tests than those who said they consumed less. Of all diet components looked at, only mono fats had a positive effect on mental functioning. The researchers propose that the fatty acids in mono fats may help maintain the structure of brain membranes.
Neurology, May 1999.

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