Considering the various stages of carcinogenesis and the numerous tumor types and available chemoprevention agents, knowledge of the etiology and the type of cancer to be treated, or possibly prevented, and understanding of the mechanisms by which agents exert their chemoprevention benefits may provide for improved strategy in designing therapeutic regimens. Because cancer usually develops over a 10- to 20-year period, it may be necessary for some agents to be provided before or early in the initiation steps of carcinogenesis to have beneficial effects. On the other hand, some agents may be more suitable for CRC prevention if provided at a later stage of carcinogenesis. Gene array, genomics, and proteomics are useful tools in advancing our understanding of the molecular events involved in carcinogenesis and in identifying markers of risk and surrogate end-points for colorectal cancer progression. These techniques may also serve for screening, identifying, and providing treatment targets for high-risk patient populations. Treatment could be developed depending on a patient's individual needs and genomic tumor profile. Clinical markers and surrogate end-points should be considered, together with molecular measurements, to more accurately assess risk. NSAIDs and COXIBs are clinically recognized as chemoprevention agents, and clinical trials evaluating their efficacy are ongoing. Treatment protocols, including dose and timing, remain to be determined, however. DFMO may best be used in combination with other chemoprevention agents. Dietary fiber and calcium supplements, as part of an overall low-fat diet, may decrease CRC risk. Long-term compliance with this regimen may be necessary to effect a beneficial outcome. Folate holds promise but needs further investigation, especially because its beneficial effects may depend on cancer type. Phytochemicals have been identified as strong candidates for use as agents to prevent colorectal cancer in cell culture and in rodent models of carcinogenesis. Their potential as chemoprevention agents must be demonstrated in clinical trials. In vitro and animal studies indicate that combination therapy may be a promising strategy over the monotherapy approach; clinical trials addressing the safety and efficacy of some combinations (DFMO/sulindac, fiber/calcium) are underway. The gastrointestinal tract and other organs are constantly exposed to a mixture of potentially toxic compounds and molecules considered favorable to health. Homeostasis between stress-mediated by toxic compounds and defensive mechanisms, is key for the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease. Whereas aggressive pharmacologic treatment may be necessary for patients at high risk for cancer, dietary supplements may be useful for populations at normal risk. The message for cancer prevention in the general population may well remain: keep a balanced healthy diet, eating a variety from all food groups, as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes moderate exercise.
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