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    Preventing Colon Cancer: What You Can Do

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    There has been only one study of COX-2 inhibitors in people, done in patients with a rare genetic disease called Familial Adenomas Poliposis, which predisposes them to polyp formation. "It showed a 30% reduction in polyps, which was pretty significant," DuBois says. "The FDA did approve use of that drug for those patients."

    Another three-year study is under way to see whether the drug will be effective in reversing polyp formation.

    In the meantime, DuBois recommends baby aspirin for its protective effects for heart disease as well as colon cancer, especially for people over 50. "Toxic effects are less with the lower dose, but you still get some. If [patients] have risk for cardiovascular disease, one of the recommendations is to take aspirin, and they can take it knowing it might help other things as well."

    If you want to learn more about colorectal cancer screening, Michael Pignone, MD, MPH, a researcher of the Lineberger Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggests checking out this
    link -- www.med.unc.edu/medicine/edursrc/colon.htm. It leads to a downloadable video that explains -- in layman's terms -- various colon cancer screening tests, Pignone says.

    The video explains fecal occult blood testing, which looks for blood in the stool that may signal the presence of a precancerous polyp. It also discusses flexible sigmoidoscopy, a procedure in which a flexible tube is inserted through the rectum, allowing the doctor to look for polyps in part of the colon.

    Pignone tells WebMD that large, well-designed studies have shown that fecal occult blood testing can detect colon cancer and that this early detection reduces the death rate by about 33%. "And the people who were studied in those trials were over age 50, so we really believe that colon cancer screening is effective for adults over age 50, men and women."

    Robert E. Schoen, MD, MPH, tells WebMD that everyone should be getting screened for colorectal cancer after age 50. Schoen is director of the Center for Families at Risk for Colorectal Cancer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.

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