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CHICAGO, Dec 9 (AFP) - Men at high risk for colorectal cancer might be well advised to increase their intake of vitamin D and fibre, a study released Tuesday suggested.
US researchers found that a daily supplement of the "sunshine" vitamin and four grams of fibre a day was associated with a reduced risk of colon polyps or pre-cancerous tumours.
The study -- one of the most comprehensive studies on colon-cancer to date -- also showed that men who took a daily anti-inflammatory pill, in this case aspirin, were about two-thirds as likely to have a tumour as those who did not.
Exercise, calcium, folic acid and multivitamins were found to be marginally beneficial in lowering risk in men who showed no symptoms of the disease -- the second most deadly form of cancer, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In contrast, smoking and drinking were associated with an increase in risk, with smokers almost twice as likely to have a tumour or a benign polyp, which often become cancerous, as non-smokers, according to the study of 3,000 men between the ages of 50 and 75.
In a notable finding, the researchers reported that smokers' risk outweighed that of individuals who had close family members who had developed colorectal cancer.
The lead investigator, David Lieberman, said his findings suggested nen could take relatively simple steps to protect themselves.
"Stop smoking, reduce alcohol and red meat consumption, take a multivitamin, exercise regularly and consume vitamin D, calcium and cereal fiber in your diet," said the chief of gastroenterology at the Portland, Oregon Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.
Lieberman said further research is needed to evaluate the optimum dosage of vitamin D relative to exposure to sunlight.
Sunlight promotes the synthesis of vitamin D in the body. The vitamin is essential for the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth, although it can be toxic if taken in excessive quantities.
Volunteers in this 13-centre study took 645 IUs per day.
The results of the three-year study also bolster the case for universal early screening for this type of cancer, the authors said.
More than one in 10 of the volunteers showed evidence of an advanced tumour, even though they had no history of colon trouble and no symptoms prior to a colonoscopy, the authors reported.
The study was conducted by the Veterans' Affairs Department in Portland, Oregon in concert with Harvard University and the National Cancer Institute.
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