Does Aspirin Help to Treat Colorectal Cancer?

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Taking aspirin regularly may help to improve survival in some colorectal cancer, a study reported in the August issue of JAMA.

The study was based on 12 years of follow-up data on 1,279 colorectal cancer patients enrolled in 2 prospective studies, the Nurses’ health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS).

Findings: stage I, II or III colorectal cancer patients who took aspirin regularly were 29% less likely to die from the disease and 21% less likely to die overall.  The benefit was greater among patients who did not aspirin before and had tumor expressing COX-2, an enzyme that is associated with inflammation and cell growth.

The American Cancer Society, however, does not recommend all cancer patients to take aspirin since the benefits of aspirin might be offset by the gastrointestinal bleeding.

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get routine tests.  People with no risk factors for colorectal cancer should begin regular screening at age 50.  Those who have family history or at risk of developing colorectal cancer (i.e. inflammatory bowel disease) should start screening at younger age.

Reference: JAMA. 2009;302(6):649-658.

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