If you have the gene expression that produces a particular type of enzyme known to keep colon cancer at bay, then you may be getting the most out of aspirin.
Published April 23 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers discovered that this household staple could possibly prevent colorectal cancer, especially in people with the gene that produces increased levels of a particular enzyme called 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH).
The enzyme is found in the mucous membranes of the colon. When combined with aspirin, the 15-PGDH expression found in the DNA structure may play a definitive role in inhibiting the growth of prostaglandins, a type of lipid linked to colon cancer.
In the study, participants were asked to consume at least two 325-mg aspirins a week. The participants with the DNA containing the 15-PGDH expression were found to have lower risk (51 percent) of colon cancer than those who did not take aspirin. Those who had lower levels of 15-PGDH, meanwhile, only had a 10 percent lower risk of colon cancer.
In the course of three decades, the researchers examined sample tissues of 270 colon cancer patients from an estimated 100,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, gathering data on aspirin use every 2 years and following them up for colorectal cancer diagnoses.
"If you have low levels of (the enzyme), taking aspirin to reduce your colon cancer risk is probably not helping you," said Dr. Sanford Markowitz, lead author of the study and cancer genetics professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, in a press release. "But people with higher levels are getting a bang for the buck: The combination of high enzyme levels plus taking aspirin really seems to be the key to measurably reducing colon cancer risk."
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, with an estimated 96,830 cases of colon and 40,000 cases of rectal cancer expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the 2014 report of the American Cancer Society.
While aspirin promises wonders, Harvard Medical School associate professor and co-author Dr. Andrew Chan cautions that they aren't ready yet to recommend treatment, as they have to conduct further studies.
Possibly one of the cheapest drugs available, aspirin can cause serious side effects such as gastritis, inflammation of the stomach, or, worse, gastrointestinal bleeding from ulcers.
But the research "provides proof that we may be able to go beyond traditional risk factors to try to determine if someone can benefit from aspirin therapy," Chan added.