Moms and health experts agree: milk does a body good. It delivers the calcium you need for strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction and a beating heart. And now, studies are showing that people who drink milk every day lower their risk of colorectal cancer as much as 12 percent, and double that if they drink two glasses a day!
The experts at Johns Hopkins advise that both men and women over age 50 get tested for this deadly disease, which is highly treatable. Even if you drink lots of milk, the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of colon cancer is to undergo routine screening.
The following are the most commonly used methods:
* Fecal Occult Blood Test: This test checks for hidden (occult) blood in your stool. With an at-home test kit, you smear small stool samples on a test card over several days and then mail the kit to a lab or take it to your doctor for analysis.
* Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: A doctor passes a flexible, lighted viewing tube (sigmoidoscope) through the rectum and the most distal two feet of the colon. If found, polyps are removed and sent to a lab for examination.
* Colonoscopy: This test is the gold standard of colon cancer screening. A colonoscopy is similar in technique to a sigmoidoscopy but examines the entire length of the colon. Patients are sedated for this more invasive procedure.
* Double-Contrast Barium Enema: An enema with barium sulfate illuminates the large intestine on x-ray images. If necessary, polyps are removed later by colonoscopy.
* Virtual Colonoscopy: This experimental procedure is less invasive than a traditional colonoscopy. During the test, a tube is inserted into the rectum and the colon is filled with air so that its entire length can be viewed using computed tomography (sometimes called a CT or CAT scan).
This test does not require sedation but if polyps are found, a traditional colonoscopy is needed to remove them. In the future this test will be most useful for people at low risk for colon cancer. Currently, a virtual colonoscopy is not recommended for routine screening purposes.
Researchers do not know exactly how calcium helps prevent colon cancer. It’s been suggested that calcium might inhibit the initial formation of polyps, prevent polyps from becoming cancerous or perhaps interfere with regrowth after a polyp is removed. Besides a daily glass of milk (or any source of calcium that delivers 1,200 mg of calcium daily) and routine screening, another preventive measure is eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in red meat. Eat smart and help prevent colon cancer.
Excerpted from the 2006 Johns Hopkins White Paper: Digestive Disorders, copyright Medletter Associates, LLC