Cancer rates have been skyrocketing for decades so it may not come as a surprise that 15.5 million people with a history of or existing cancer were living in the United States as of January 1, 2016. While it might not be surprising, it is an alarming number of people. Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the third leading cause of deaths linked to cancer. Anything that might help reduce the incidence, prevent or treat colorectal cancer is certainly welcome. Fortunately, new research found that flax oil could significantly cut colon cancer risk.
According to the study published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, found that increasing intake of a particular type of Omega 3 fatty acid, known as eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), which is primarily found in fatty fish, can help with the prevention of colon cancer. The researchers explored the effects of taking aspirin and supplementing the diet with EPA.
Seven hundred and nine people were recruited to participate in the study through 53 British hospitals. The participants were divided into four groups: the first group received 300 milligrams of aspirin only on a daily basis for a year, the second group received 2000 milligrams of EPA supplements only for a year, the third group received both aspirin and EPA, and the fourth group were given placebo pills.
Since colon cancer often starts with polyps, or abnormal growths of tissue, in the colon, the researchers assessed the number of polyps each group had before and after treatment. They found that those who took aspirin had 22 percent fewer polyps, those who took EPA supplements had 9 percent fewer polyps, and those who took both had 25 percent fewer polyps, making the combination particularly effective in reducing polyps and the potential risk of colon cancer.
That’s good news for those already suffering from the disease and the more than 97,000people that are estimated to be diagnosed with colon cancer and over 43,000 people that are estimated to be diagnosed with rectal cancer this year alone, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
It’s important to consider that while aspirin has shown some anti-cancer benefit, it has some disadvantages too. Regular intake can cause an increased loss of folic acid in urine. Since this B vitamin is necessary to help us deal with stress and to keep our immune system strong, it may be beneficial to supplement with 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
Ongoing aspirin use has been linked to gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding that can also result in a loss of iron from the body. If continued over the long-term, iron-deficiency anemia can result. Women, particularly those during the menstrual years, may need to supplement with iron; however, iron levels should be tested by your doctor prior to considering supplementation.
Those with heart disease may also find that aspirin depletes their vitamin B12 stores. Since this crucial vitamin is essential for memory, nervous system function, balanced moods and energy, it may be wise to supplement with vitamin B12 if you are taking aspirin on a daily basis.
While there are three main types of Omega 3 fatty acids, including: alpha linolenic acid (or ALAs, which are found in many plant foods like flaxseed oil), docosahexanoic acid (or DHA which is primarily found in fish and seafood) and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA, which is primarily found in fish and seafood), the study results were achieved with EPA supplements. The best food sources of EPAs are fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna and mackerel.