Aspirin cuts colon cancer rate in high-risk patients, study says

Patients with a genetic condition that increases their risk of colon and other cancers who took aspirin daily developed colon cancer less often than patients who took a placebo, researchers reported Thursday.

The study, which was the first randomized controlled trial to look at the effect of aspirin on cancer rates, was published in the journal the Lancet.

Professor John Burn, a geneticist at Newcastle University in England, led the research team.  The group followed 861 people with Lynch syndrome, which increases the risk of developing colon and other cancers.  Some of the patients took two 600 mg aspirins every day, others took a placebo.

On first analysis, in 2007, there was no difference in colon cancer incidence between the groups.  But in 2010 when researchers checked again there were 34 colon cases of colon cancer among the placebo group and only 19 in the group who took aspirin -- a 44% reduced incidence.  Patients who took aspirin for at least two years had a 63% reduced incidence.

Burn and his co-authors noted that further studies would be needed to figure out optimum dose and duration of treatment, but wrote that their results "provide a basis for recommendation of aspirin chemoprevention in Lynch syndrome."

In an accompanying comment, Dr. Andrew T. Chan of the Harvard Medical School and Dr. Scott M. Lippmann at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, agreed.

"First and foremost, the results provide a strong rationale for routine use of aspirin in individuals with Lynch syndrome," they wrote, adding that taking aspirin could make sense for others, too.

"With aspirin's well established vascular benefits and recent evidence of benefit for colorectal and other cancers in pooled cardiovascular randomized trials, Burn and colleagues' findings might at last tip the scales in favor of aspirin as the chemopreventive agent of choice for many individuals," they wrote.

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