Life Extension Update
|March 02, 2004|
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
|Life Extension Update Exclusive |
Heme iron raises, zinc lowers colon cancer risk
The researchers analyzed data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which examined cancer risk factors in postmenopausal women. The current study included 37,708 women who completed questionnaires which provided information on diet and cancer risk factors at the beginning of the study in 1986. The women were followed for fifteen years, during which 303 distal and 438 proximal cases of colon cancer were diagnosed.
Adjusted analysis found a trend of rising proximal colon cancer risk with increased heme iron intake while the risk declined with increased zinc intake, with both associations stronger in women who consumed alcohol. Zinc intake was also found to be protective against the risk of distal colon cancer regardless of alcohol intake.
Free, not bound iron has been found to cause cancer. Because alcohol disrupts iron homeostasis, it may be responsible for generating free iron, increasing cancer risk. Zinc has known antioxidant qualities, and dysregulation of certain proteins containing zinc is found more often in colon cancers than in the normal colon. In addition, iron can substitute for zinc at a molecular level and may be responsible for some DNA damage. These factors may help to explain the findings of this study. Because meat is a good source of both heme iron and zinc, this may account for the conflicting findings of studies that have examined the relationship of meat consumption to colon cancer.
The following is a summary of what a colon cancer patient should consider as an adjuvant approach to conventional therapy:
Zinc is a mineral essential for formation of superoxide dismutase, one of the body’s most important free radical scavengers and one that cannot be directly supplemented. Zinc also promotes wound healing, immune function, taste sensitivity, protein synthesis, insulin production, and reproduction including organ development and sperm motility.
Vitamin A (retinol) is a yellow, fat-soluble solid terpene alcohol obtained from some carotenoids by conversion in the liver, its storage organ. While carotenoids are widely distributed in such foods as green and yellow vegetables, retinol is not found in any vegetable sources, but is concentrated in egg yolks and the livers of many animals. Vitamin A, either from animal sources or synthesized in our own liver, is essential for growth and reproduction, maintaining healthy vision, and supporting protein synthesis and cell differentiation.
Vitamin A and its analogs have shown the ability to help maintain proper DNA function.
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