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Aspirin's potential ability to prevent colon polyps may not apply equally to all

The association between regular aspirin use and a reduced risk of precancerous colon polyps may be strongest in those with particular genetic variants. In the March 16 Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers report that aspirin use appears to reduce the incidence of colon polyps more strongly in women with alternative forms of a gene involved in the metabolism of aspirin than in those with the most common form of the gene. The report from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) analyzes data from the Nurse's Health Study.

"Several studies by our group and others have suggested that aspirin may help prevent colon polyps, but since aspirin therapy also has risks, it would be helpful to identify those who are most likely to benefit," says Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, of the MGH Gastrointestinal Unit, the paper's lead author. "We decided to look at the gene for an enzyme that metabolizes aspirin and is known to have variant forms that slow down that process."

The Nurses' Health Study has followed more than 120,000 female registered nurses since the mid-1970s, asking them to complete a questionnaire on risk factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease every two years. In 1980, assessments of diet, aspirin use, and colon examination were added to the NHS questionnaire, and in 1990 many participants provided blood samples that could be analyzed for genetic factors.

The current study analyzed the blood samples from participants who reported having endoscopic colon examinations between 1990 and 1998. About 500 of those participants had been diagnosed with adenoma a type of colorectal polyp that may develop into cancer and their data was compared with a control group consisting of an equal number of women not diagnosed with polyps.

While the incidence of polyps was significantly lower in those who took aspirin regularly defined as tw
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Contact: Donita Boddie
dboddie@partners.org
617-724-5627
Massachusetts General Hospital
15-Mar-2005


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