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Prevention

Vitamins & Supplements

Vitamins and supplements may be a powerful tool in colon cancer prevention, also known as chemoprevention. The supplements and vitamins listed below have been tested for their cancer prevention properties, but the studies conducted have been inconsistent. While this does not mean that these vitamins and supplements are ineffective in preventing cancer, it is important to consult your health care professional before taking any of these products.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants have been studied for their effects in cancer prevention and risk reduction. Antioxidants may defend against cell damage caused by unstable molecules, also known as free radicals. Laboratory and animal studies have shown that antioxidants prevent cancer, but human studies have been less consistent. Beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C, E, and A, and other substances are antioxidants, and are found in tea, red wine and chokeberries or Anthocyanin-rich extract.1

Aspirin

Aspirin has been linked, in some studies, to cancer prevention. This is achieved by aspirin’s ability to block the enzyme cyclooxygenase2 (COX-2), which is produced by many tumors.2 A recent study by the University of Oxford found that 75 mg of aspirin taken daily for five years lowered the risk of colorectal cancer by 24 percent and the risk of dying from colon cancer by 35 percent.3 There are however, side effects associated with taking aspirin regularly.

Calcium

Calcium, when taken with vitamin D, is thought to be linked to cancer prevention. Daily use of calcium carbonate [a type of the mineral calcium] resulted in a 15 percent reduction in colorectal adenomatus polyp recurrence.4 Calcium is commonly found in dairy products, dark green vegetables, some grains, legumes, and nuts. Calcium supplements, when taken daily, may also protect against colon polyps for lactose sensitive individuals. Dairy products and calcium supplements may also be taken together.5 The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Calcium, adopted by the National Institute of Health are:

Age

Male

Female

Pregnant

Lactating

0–6 months*

200 mg

200 mg

7–12 months*

260 mg

260 mg

1–3 years

700 mg

700 mg

4–8 years

1,000 mg

1,000 mg

9–13 years

1,300 mg

1,300 mg

14–18 years

1,300 mg

1,300 mg

1,300 mg

1,300 mg

19–50 years

1,000 mg

1,000 mg

1,000 mg

1,000 mg

51–70 years

1,000 mg

1,200 mg

71+ years

1,200 mg

1,200 mg


* Adequate Intake (AI)6

It is important that men limit intake to 1,200 mg because of the risk of prostate cancer.7

Curcumin

Curcumin has been studied for its effects in cancer prevention. Curcurmin is a type of ginger found in turmeric, which is commonly used in Indian food. This supplement contains anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is not fully absorbed in the blood stream, thus remains in the gut. Studies have shown that the supplement may prevent colon cancer through its anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.8 The study suggests taking 3.6 grams of curcumin daily.

Garlic

Garlic is a vegetable that may reduce the risk of developing cancer, particularly gastrointestinal tract cancers.9 Garlic contains antibacterial properties, and may be able to prevent the formation and activation of cancer-causing substances, and boost DNA repair. Garlic is most potent when consumed raw. This may be done by consuming the vegetable itself, or through supplements. Garlic supplements come in four forms: garlic essential oil, garlic oil macerate, garlic powder, and garlic extract. Too much garlic may, however, be hard on one’s body.

Folic acid and B Vitamins

Folic acid, a B vitamin complex, and other B vitamins may aid in colon cancer prevention. Additionally, recent research suggests that a deficiency in folic acid has been linked to cancer.10 However, study results have yielded inconsistent results.

Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs)

Omega-3 PUFAs are healthy fatty acids and may be linked to colon cancer prevention.11 Omega-3s are found in fish and nuts and may also be taken in a pill form.

Selenized Yeast

A recent Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study found a statistically significant reduction in the number of cases of colorectal cancer, as well as other cancers, through administration of selenized yeast.12 Studies on the effects of selenized yeast, however, have been terminated early because of a lack of efficacy and ability to observe adverse effects.

Soy

Recent studies suggest that soy may be helpful in preventing colon cancer. The results were most effective in postmenopausal women.13 It is important to note that many people have sensitivity to soy, so please consult your health care professional before consuming.

Statins

Statins are drugs that lower cholesterol and certain fats in the blood.14 Statin drugs are currently being studied for prevention and treatment of cancer. There are, however, many side effects associated with these drugs and the effects need further research.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, which really is not a vitamin at all but in fact, a fat-soluble prohormone, has been linked to reduced risk of colon cancer.15 The results, however, have not been consistent and further research on its effects is necessary. You may get vitamin D naturally and at no cost from sunlight, or through enriched foods, eggs, fish oil, and store-bought supplements.

Other vitamins that are hinted to have colon cancer prevention properties but still require further research include:

  • Reishi mushroom
  • IP-6
  • Magnesium
  • Citrus Bioflavonoid16

Medical Disclaimer

The information presented on the Susan Cohan Kasdas Colon Cancer Foundation web site is solely intended to provide you with information that will help educate you on the importance of diet, exercise and regular cancer screening in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Adopting these habits is an individual choice and one that should only be made after consultation with your health care professional. No information provided on this Web site or otherwise offered by The Susan Cohan Kasdas Colon Cancer Foundation is intended to replace or in any way modify the advice of your health care professional.


1. National Cancer Institute, “Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention:  Fact Sheet.” (Rev. 2009).

2. Ray Sahelian, M.D., “Colon Cancer natural treatment and prevention with diet, food, vitamins, supplements and herbs”, http://www.raysahelian.com/coloncancer.html. Accessed April 2011.

3. National Cancer Institute, “More Evidence Suggests Aspirin May Prevent Colorectal Cancer.” (Posted 2010).

4. Demetrius Albanes, M.D., “Vitamin Supplements and Cancer Prevention:  Where Do Randomized Controlled Trials Stand?, “Journal of the National Cancer Institute 101:1 (January 2009):  2-4.

5. National Cancer Institute, “Calcium and Cancer Prevention:  Strengths and Limits of the Evidence.” (Rev. 2009).

6. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium/, Accessed April 2011.

7. American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ColonandRectumCancer/DetailedGuide/colorectal-cancer-prevention. Accessed April 2011.

8. Ray Sahelian, M.D.

9. National Cancer Institute, “Garlic and Cancer Prevention:  Questions and Answers”. (Rev. 2008).

10. Ray Sahelian, M.D.

11. Ray Sahelian, M.D.

12. Demetrius Albanes, M.D.

13. Ray Sahelian, M.D.; Citing American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2009.

14. Ray Sahelian, M.D.

15. National Cancer Institute, “Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention: Strengths and Limits of the Evidence.”

16. Ray Sahelian, M.D.

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