Aspirin May Reduce Colon Cancer Risk for Some

Colorectal cancer can be reduced by taking aspirin in people who carry a special gene

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Aspirin can sooth a headache and reduce the risk of heart attack. Now, a new study has looked at how it may help lower the risk of one common form of cancer.

This recent study showed that people who carry a gene that raises their levels of a specific gene product in their colon may reduce their risk of colorectal (colon) cancer by taking aspirin.

The authors of this study hope to develop a cost-effective test to identify individuals who can benefit from this discovery.

"Speak with your doctor before starting any new medication regimen."

This study was led by Sanford Markowitz, MD, PhD, Ingalls Professor of Cancer Genetics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Markowitz and team analyzed the data from two long-term studies that included 127,865 participants and analyzed 270 colon cancer cases that developed over three decades.

These researchers were looking to explain why taking aspirin could reduce the risk of colon cancer in some individuals but not others.

The research team found that people with high levels of 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH), a gene product produced in higher quantities in individuals who carry a specific gene, were able to greatly reduce their risk of colon cancer by taking aspirin.

These researchers found that people with lower levels of 15-PGDH saw no reduction in colon cancer risk when taking aspirin.

“If you looked at the folks from the study who had high 15-PGDH levels and took aspirin, they cut their risk of colon cancer by half,” Dr. Markowitz said in a press release. “If you looked at the folks from the study that were low for 15-PGDH, they did not benefit at all from taking aspirin. These findings represent a clean Yes-No about who would benefit from aspirin.”

The authors of this study concluded that doctors could safely take a biopsy from the colon during a colonoscopy, an invasive procedure that tests for colon cancer, to determine which individuals would benefit from a daily low-dose aspirin regimen.

Dr. Markowitz added, “There would be no reason why a good hospital pathology laboratory could not establish the test for 15-PGDH.”

This research team hopes to develop a cost-effective test for measuring 15-PGDH in the colon.

The authors acknowledged that their study was limited by the inability to test patients for the 15-PGDH prior to being diagnosed with colon cancer.

This study was published April 23 in Science Translational Medicine.

This study was funded in part by grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) GI-SPORE program (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence in Gastrointestinal Cancers) and NCI’s Early Detection Research Network.

The authors disclosed that members of the research team had consulted for or received funding from Bayer Healthcare, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer Inc, and Pozen Inc.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 23, 2014
Last Updated:
April 23, 2014