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Tuesday, November 18, 1997 Published at 15:21 GMT


How a high fibre diet can help prevent cancer

Fruit and vegetables and cereals can help prevent bowel cancer

Scientists at the Cancer Research Campaign believe they have discovered why a high fibre diet can help prevent bowel cancer.

Experts have believed for some time that fibre helps prevent cancer by speeding up the digestive process.

This new research, carried out at Bristol University and the Burnham Institute in California, indicates that fibre produces an acid called sodium butyrate which blocks the activity of a cancer-causing gene.

Dr Angela Hague at the CRC Colorectal Tumour Biology Research Group in Bristol said: "The gene would normally cause bowel cancer cells to grow because it is powerful enough to override the body's natural defences which normally cause faulty cells to commit suicide before cancer develops."

This knowledge, the researchers believe, has a significant impact on the prevention and treatment of the disease, which claims the lives of 18,000 people in the UK each year and hundreds of thousands worldwide.

Professor Gordon McVie, Director General of the CRC, said: "Patients tell us that this cancer above all others is probably the most embarrassing to face up to.

"This latest development once again reinforces the importance of eating a healthy diet, which includes a high intake of cereal fibre and vegetables to help protect against bowel cancer, the second biggest and least talked about cancer in Britain."

Research into the links between bowel cancer and a high-fibre diet dates back to 1960. Low rates of bowel cancer in the Bantu tribe in South Africa was attributed to their high roughage diet.

"The occurrence of bowel cancer varies dramatically across the world, and this is thought to be due to environmental factors, principally diet," said Dr. Lesley Walker of the CRC.

"In Britain it is very high, and can be reduced by eating fibre from a variety of sources."

All fruit and vegetables contain fibre. Examples of foods with especially high-fibre content include cool baked potatoes, prunes, kiwi fruit, beans and peas.

Kellogg's food company has pledged 1 as part of a new initiative with the CRC to raise levels of awareness of cereal fibre as an important component in helping to prevent bowel cancer.

Tim Mobsby, Managing Director of Kellogg's said: "We want to use all means at our disposal to alert people to this silent killer. For example, by highlighting the campaign on packs of Kellogg's All Bran we will raise awareness of bowel cancer in millions of homes.

"In addition to joint literature, we are also planning to carry out a national survey to establish what people do and do not know about bowel cancer and the role of fibre in its prevention."

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