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Omega-3, Selenium May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

According to two recent studies, omega-3 essential fatty acids and selenium may reduce the risk of the development and recurrence of colorectal (colon) cancer.

Both of the studies were presented at a conference on cancer prevention sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research, held in Houston on Dec 7, 2009.

The first study, which was only on omega-3 essential fatty acids, was conducted by researchers from the US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. It included nearly 2,000 participants, half of whom had colorectal cancer.

The participants were surveyed regarding their dietary habits during the past year. The researchers determined that the participants in the highest quarter for omega-3 essential fatty acid consumption had a 39% reduction in colorectal cancer risk compared to the lowest quartile.

The second study involved selenium. Researchers based in Italy recruited 411 participants between 25-75 years of age. All of the participants had previously had at least one colorectal polyp removed.

The participants received a supplement containing 200 micrograms of selenomethionnine (a combination of selenium and methionnine), 30 milligrams of zinc, 6,000 international units of vitamin A, 180 milligrams of vitamin C and 30 milligrams of vitamin E or a placebo daily for five years.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that those taking the supplement had a 40% reduction in the risk for the return of the polyps.

The researchers estimated that, after 15 years, approximately 48% of those participants taking the supplement would still be free of polyps, compared to approximately 30% of those not taking the supplement.

Beyond colorectal health, selenium has also been shown to boost the immune system and lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline. This powerful antioxidant is found in foods such as legumes, animal products and nuts (particularly Brazil nuts.)

The amount of selenium in these foods varies by region because it is dependent on the amount of selenium present in the soil. Taking a high quality selenium supplement is a good way to ensure your body is getting the right amount of selenium.

Omega-3s, which have been shown to provide an extensive list of health benefits ranging from heart health to improvements in cognitive function, are found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. As with selenium, you can also get your omega-3s in supplement form, but be sure to choose a high quality supplement.

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