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Red meat diets cause cancer { April 7 2004 }

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Tests predict prostate, colon cancer better
April 7, 2004

Two new tests may predict who is most at risk of two top cancer killers, colon and prostate cancer, US researchers said today.

One test can show which men might be most at risk of colon cancer while the other points to who is most likely to die from prostate cancer if surgery or radiation fails.

Both studies, done at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, are published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr Jiang Ma and colleagues found that men with longtime high levels of C-peptide -- an indicator of insulin production -- had triple the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

A high C-peptide reading usually suggests a patient has hyperinsulinemia, in which insulin in the body can rise to damaging levels. Plasma C-peptide levels are higher among people who are overweight, inactive and eat lots of red meat, high-fat dairy products and refined grains.

"This study supports our hypothesis that men with long-term elevated insulin production, as a result of long-term exposure to Western dietary and lifestyle risk factors, are at a much higher risk of developing colorectal cancer in their lifetimes," Ma said in a statement.

Patients with high levels may be able to eat better and exercise more to prevent cancer, although no study has shown this will work.

Ma and her colleagues looked at the medical records of nearly 500 men followed for 13 years as part of a larger, long-term study called the Physicians' Health Study.

They compared C-peptide levels among 176 men who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer to 294 men who were cancer-free.

Colon cancer will kill 57,000 people in the United States alone this year and is the second leading cause of cancer death and lung cancer.

In the prostate cancer study Dr Anthony D'Amico and colleagues found that the patterns of prostate specific antigen after treatment for prostate cancer could predict who was more likely to die.

They found men whose PSA levels rose quickly and fell slowly after getting hormone-based therapy were 13 times more likely to die than men whose PSA levels rose slowly at first and then fell sharply.

D'Amico's team followed 1,454 men whose prostate cancer came back after surgery or radiation therapy, and thus had hormone therapy.

D'Amico said the patients with a pessimistic PSA reading could go on for experimental treatment. "Once identified these men can enter expedited clinical trials aimed at finding a way to curtail and eventually eliminate the inevitable end these men currently face today," he said.

Prostate cancer will kill more than 30,000 US men this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

- Reuters

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