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Sleuthing to prevent cancer.

Sleuthing to Prevent Cancer

What do skin tags have to do with eating fiber? If youhave skin tags, you have good reason to increase the fiber in your diet--if you believe the suggestions from the National Cancer Institute, that is. If you grow skin tags, there is some evidence you are more likely to grow polyps in your colon. And, as everyone knows, polyps in the colon can become cancerous, as one in our President's colon did. And that's where the National Cancer Institute comes in: it has come out front with the advice that we should all be eating more fiber to protect us from certain kinds of cancer, especially colon cancer. Our long-time readers know that the Post came out foursquare more than 16 years ago urging everyoen to eat fiber. We've believed for a long time that fiber helps prevent not just colon cancer but diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and a myriad of other bland-diet related problems.

If you have found those pesky little pedunculated skintags on your body, you might be interested in a recent study done at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Miami. One hundred patients who had been referred for colonoscopic exams were inspected for skin tags. Most of the tags were found on the upper trunk or neck area. Of the 100 patients, 46 were found to have colonic polyps, and 37 of these had the identifying skin-tag markers. In other words, the skin tags were more than 75 percent accurate in pinpointing the presence of polyps in the colon.

Having skin tags does not necessarily mean you have acolon problem--11 of the 100 patients had skin tags but no colonic polyps. However, the researchers believe the data suggest skin tags may hep identify persons at risk for colonic polyps and, possibly, cancer of the colon.

Although skin tags aren't considered precancerous,polyps in the colon are. Gastroenterologists recommend removing the polyps in the colon at the time they are discovered. With relatively new fiber-optic colonoscope and sigmoidoscope equipment, it is possible for the physician to locate the polyp, show it to the patient through the fiber-optic viewing end of the tube, and remove it, all during a half-hour to an hour office procedure. The surveillance of the lining of your colon becomes more important the older you become. Gastroenterologists, the specialists who take care of the gastrointestinal tract, have become very proficient at viewing the lining of the colon, all the way to the cecum. (The cecum is the place where the small intestine attaches to the colon and is also the site of the appendix.) Traditionally, most early cancers were detected on the left side of the colon. Now that more sophisticated equipment is available and more people are being tested, doctors are finding more on the right side than they used to find. Because colon cancer is so common in both men and women, it pays to watch for this one. If you have a family history of colon cancer, it is especially important to remind your doctor of this fact so that he will arrange for a flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or possibly an air-contrast barium enema.

To prevent becoming one of the 60,000 colon-cancer fatalitiespredicted for the United States this year, eat fiber every day. Increasing the fiber in your diet each day needn't be boring. There are many good receips for high-fiber dishes. Dr. Vincent DeVita of the National Cancer Institute reminds us that foods such as cantaloupe increase not only the fiber in our diet but also the beta-carotene, a substance that shows promise of preventing some kinds of cancers. Some doctors I know feel fiber is so important they don't wish to leave it to chance for their patients. If they sense that a patient may not want to discard favorite pastry recipes in favor of whole-grain, high-fiber foods, they prescribe the regular use of fiber supplements as a convenient, dependable way to increase the fiber content of that patient's diet.
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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:column
Date:Jul 1, 1987
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