Colon polyps are rather common, and there is a specific type of polyps that increases the risk of colon cancer, which is also a widespread problem. According to a new clinical study from the University of Leeds in England, a concentrated form of the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, which is found in oily fish and fish oil supplements, helps reduce the number of colon polyps. The same is the case with aspirin. The two preparations work differently, however, depending on where in the colon the polyps are found, and aspirin may have long-term side effects. Earlier research has shown that supplements of selenium and antioxidants have a preventive effect, which appears to be even greater.
Colon cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Europe, so there is every reason in the world to focus on prevention. In the new study, 700 patients from 53 hospitals in England participated. All of the patients had been diagnosed with colon polyps following colonoscopy, which is an endoscopic examination of the large bowel with a CCD camera or a fiber optic camera. Colon polyps are normally harmless growths, but a certain type called adenomas are associated with a risk of developing colon cancer in around five percent of the patients. In this patient group, it is therefore important to monitor the development of the adenomas. However, it is not all polyps that are discovered, and even if they are removed surgically, there is still a risk that the patients develop colon cancer. The new seAFOod trial was carried out to see whether supplements of EPA and aspirin could prevent the disease.
The patients were divided in four groups that got one of the following daily regimens:
- 2 grams of concentrated EPA in four capsules
- 1 tablet of aspirin (300 mg)
- A combination of EPA and aspirin
Different effects of omega-3 and aspirin
The patients, who took aspirin, had 22 percent fewer polyps at the end of the one-year study period compared with those on placebo. The patients generally had fewer polyps in the colon, including the right side of the colon, which is most distant from the rectum, and which is the most difficult to survey by means of colonoscopy.
The patients, who took EPA, had nine percent fewer polyps at the end of the study, compared with those on placebo. Although the difference was not statistically significant, it turned out that those, who had taken EPA, had 25% fewer polyps in the left side of the colon, compared with those on placebo
It appeared that the combination of aspirin and EPA had an even greater effect.
The new seAFOod Trial was carried out as a multidisciplinary project between the universities in Leeds, Nottingham, Bradford, Newcastle, plus a few other universities, and the results are published in the science journal, the Lancet
According to Professor Mark Hull, who headed the project, both aspirin and EPA prevent colon polyps from developing, and he views this as rather exciting, as they are both inexpensive and available preparations.
Although aspiring and EPA apparently have different ways of preventing colon polyps, the study was not designed to elucidate combination therapy as such, so the scientists behind the study call for further studies in this area.
The treatment with aspirin and EPA was safe and without bleeding risk during the intervention period. Still, it is commonly known that prolonged use of aspirin and other preparations with salicylic acid increases the risk of stomach ulcers, sensitive intestinal mucosa, and bruising. Acetylsalicylic acid also increases your need for vitamin C.
In any case, it is important to get enough of the essential nutrients such as omega-3 and selenium.
Lack of selenium increases your risk of colon cancer
Selenium supports around 30 different enzymes – also called selenoproteins – that have various functions such as protecting cells against oxidative stress and DNA damage.
Lower blood levels of selenium are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer and liver cancer, according to a 2017 study headed by Dr. David Hughes from the Conway Institute, University College Dublin in Ireland.
According Dr. Davis Hughes, the study suggests that an increased intake of selenium may be useful for the majority of people in Europe, where the selenium intake is below the optimal levels. This is primarily a result of nutrient-depleted farmland.
|One of selenium’s roles (as an antioxidant) is to prevent iron from generating a class of the most harmful free radicals known as hydroxyl radicals, which have the power to destroy cellular DNA and result in uncontrolled cell division. Lack of selenium and excess iron in the blood is therefore a lethal cocktail.|
Selenium supplements protect against colon polyps and colon cancer – also long-term
Back in 1996, the American cancer scientist, Professor Larry C. Clark, documented that supplementation with selenium yeast lower the risk of colon caner by nearly 60 percent. As mentioned earlier, the type of polyps called adenomas increase the risk of colon cancer. An Italian researcher named Luigina Bonelli has demonstrated how selenium combined with other antioxidants are able to prevent the recurrence of adenomas. 300 patients participated, all of whom had undergone surgical removal of their adenomas, took part in her study. The patients either received a Danish selenium yeast preparation that contained zinc and some other antioxidants, or matching placebo. After five years of intervention, the double-blind, placebo-controlled study revealed that the patients in the selenium yeast/antioxidant group had a 50% reduction of malignant polyps and consequently a much lower risk of developing colon cancer.
Luigina Bonelli continued monitoring the two groups of patients. 15 years after the original study had been published, she found that, among the patients in the antioxidant group, there was still a 41% lower risk of recurring polyps compared with the original placebo group. This observation suggests that there could be an even greater advantage with continued supplementation with selenium yeast and antioxidants.
Your risk of colorectal cancer is increased by
- Increasing age
- Type 2 diabetes
- Too much iron from red meat (from four-legged animals)
- A large intake of industrially processed meat (smoked, salted, grilled etc.)
- The food additive nitrite (E249-E252)
- Lack of fiber
- Lack of selenium and EPA (omega-3 fatty acid)
University of Leeds. Aspirin and omega-3 reduce pre-cancerous bowel polyps. Medicalxpress. November 2018
The Lancet (2018) DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31775-6
New Links between selenium and cancer prevention. HRB. December 2017
Clark LC et al: Effects of Selenium Supplementation for Cancer Prevention in Patients with Carcinoma of the Skin. JAMA: 1997.
Bonelli et all. Antioxidant supplement and long-term reduction of recurrent adenomas of the large bowel. A Double-blind randomized trial. J. Gastroenterol 2013
Bonelli, Luigina. Reduction of the Incidence of Metachronous Adenomas of the Large Bowel by Means of Antioxidants". Colon Cancer Prevention 1999
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