Breath methane and hydrogen, plasma acetate, serum selenium, vitamin A and β-carotene were measured in 47 patients from whom colonic polyps had been removed by endoscopic polypectomy between 3 months and 2 years previously. Patients were compared with 39 control subjects in whom no abnormality was detected during colonoscopy. The proportion of methane exhalers was significantly (p < 0.0005) higher in patients after polypectomy (66.0%) than in controls (28.2%). Mean plasma acetate was lower (p < 0.025) in post-polypectomy patients (70.5 μM) than in control subjects (97.1 μM) while breath hydrogen was similar in both groups. The serum concentrations of the antioxidants selenium and β-carotene showed no differences between the groups whereas vitamin A was higher (p < 0.01) in serum samples of patients after polypectomy than of controls. These findings indicate that the colonic environment in post-polypectomy patients exhibits certain characteristics which may be related to the formation of benign tumors and possibly colon cancer.

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