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Daily Dose Of Erectile Dysfunction Drug Viagra May Help Prevent Cancer

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Viagra is a popular drug to treat erectile problems in men but findings of a new study have shown that the drug can also help prevent cancer.

Mutations In APC Gene

Researchers have found that a small daily dose of the drug can significantly reduce colorectal cancer risk in mice that were genetically predetermined to develop the disease.

The animals used in the experiments have mutations in adenomatous polyposis coli or APC gene, a tumor suppressor. Like these animals, people with a mutation in the APC gene are at risk of developing hundreds of polyps in the colon and rectum, which increase their odds of developing colorectal cancer.

Viagra As A Potential Cancer Prevention Drug

In a new study published in Cancer Prevention Research, Darren Browning, from Georgia Cancer Center, and colleagues placed a small daily dose of the erectile dysfunction medication in the animals' drink. They found that the drug reduced the formation of polyps in mice with a genetic mutation that causes them to produce hundreds of polyps, which can develop into colorectal cancer.

The researchers found that the drug boosts the level of the chemical cyclic GMP that affects the intestinal lining epithelium. Increased cyclic GMP appears to suppress some excessive cell proliferation in the gut, boost normal cell differentiation, and eliminate abnormal cells.

"When we give Viagra, we shrink the whole proliferating compartment," Browning said. "Proliferating cells are more subject to mutations that cause cancer."

Browning and colleagues also found that the existing polyps did not seem to be affected by the consumption of the drug, suggesting that targeting cyclic GMP signaling can be used as a prevention strategy for patients with increased risk of developing cancer.

"Taken together, the results demonstrate that targeting cGMP with either PDE5 inhibitors or GCC agonists alters epithelial homeostasis in a manner that reduces neoplasia, and suggests that this could be a viable chemoprevention strategy for patients at high risk of developing colorectal cancer," the researchers wrote in their study.

This is not the first time that Viagra has been shown to have potentials in treating a potentially deadly disease. A 2015 study has shown that the drug may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in individuals at risk of the disease. The drug is also found to reduce heart attack risk in men.

Colorectal Cancer In The United States

Figures from the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society show that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. It causes about 50,000 deaths in the United States per year.

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