In one week there have been two different lead headlines on the morning news relevant to colon cancer. First you are told to drink plenty of coffee and then you were advised to take a pain reliever a day to ward off colon cancer.
Hold on a minute! Let's look at both studies:
The National Cancer Institute, sponsored a clinical trial which examined outcomes in patients with stage III colon cancer. Patients were treated with surgery and diagnosis appropriate chemotherapies. The entire group, 953 patients, kept track of a total of 128 foods, including caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and non-herbal tea, that they consumed during treatment and for six months after chemotherapy ended.
The study showed that patients who consumed the most coffee, at least four cups per day, were 53% less likely to have a reoccurrence of their cancer or to die from the disease, than there non coffee drinker counterparts.
The coffee benefit declined, but was still evident, in those who drank less than 4 cups per day. And, although there was no association between improved outcomes and decaffeinated coffee or non-herbal tea, there was a "total coffee intake" benefit, combining both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. But, it seems that caffeine is the star of the study, because the improvements were less significant than those seen in patients who drank only caffeinated coffee.
What is the take away? This type of study does not prove a cause and effect. The doctors are not saying that coffee will prevent a reoccurrence of your colon cancer; but, they are saying they notice that coffee drinkers, in this one isolated study, showed a benefit.
So, if you are a coffee drinker - bottoms up! But, if you don’t drink coffee don’t jump in and add it to your diet without talking to your doctor. You may have preexisting conditions which would make 4 cups of coffee a day harmful you.
Well, this is a more complicated topic. The study, out of Denmark, released recently showed a significant decrease in colon cancer in patients who took aspirin or NSAIDs daily over 5 years.
The problem, and this can not be emphasized enough, is that taking daily aspirin and NSAIDs can cause other serious health problems and should only be used under a doctor’s supervision.
In addition to the health risk associated with aspirin and NSAIDs, the study did not control for other risk factors of colon cancer such as obesity, diet, alcohol use, and family history of colorectal cancer. Denmark has a much lower obesity rate than the US, 11.4% compared to 33.9%, according to the World Health Organization. Obesity is a known risk factor for developing colorectal cancers.
Recent studies have linked NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, to an increased risk of heart disease and aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. So the risk must be weighed against the potential reward. You should discuss this with your doctor and see if this treatment is right for you.
The physicians of Gi Associates, in central Mississippi, are interested in increasing the number of Mississippians screened for colorectal cancer. Currently, Mississippi leads the country in CRC deaths and the only thing that can change that statistic is more screenings.