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Aspirin use cuts hereditary cancer risk in half

Regular aspirin use cuts hereditary cancer risk in half

Tuesday, November 1, 2011. A study reported online on October 28, 2011 in The Lancet found that using aspirin on a regular basis reduces the risk of developing hereditary cancers by 50 percent among those with an inherited disorder known as Lynch syndrome. Lynch syndrome is caused by defects in genes responsible for detecting and repairing damaged DNA, which significantly increases the risk of cancer (primarily of the colon or uterus) in those affected by the disorder. Approximately 10 percent of colon and uterine cancers are believed to be the result of hereditary factors.

Professor Patrick Morrison of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland and his colleagues analyzed data from nearly a thousand men and women with Lynch syndrome for the current study. In up to more than a decade of follow-up, approximately 15 percent of the participants who reported regular aspirin use developed cancer, compared to 30 percent of those who did not regularly use the drug.

Because both groups developed the same number of colon polyps, which are precursors of colon cancer, the researchers suggest that aspirin could be destroying precancerous cells.

"The results of this study, which has been ongoing for over a decade, prove that the regular intake of aspirin over a prolonged period halves the risk of developing hereditary cancers," stated Dr Morrison. "The effects of aspirin in the first five years of the study were not clear but in those who took aspirin for between five and ten years the results were very clear."

"This is a huge breakthrough in terms of cancer prevention," he noted. "For those who have a history of hereditary cancers in their family, like bowel and womb cancers, this will be welcome news. Not only does it show we can reduce cancer rates and ultimately deaths, it opens up other avenues for further cancer prevention research. We aim now to go forward with another trial to assess the most effective dosage of aspirin for hereditary cancer prevention and to look at the use of aspirin in the general population as a way of reducing the risk of bowel cancer."

"For anyone considering taking aspirin I would recommend discussing this with your GP first as aspirin is known to bring with it a risk of stomach complaints, including ulcers," he added.

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Beans, rice, green vegetables associated with fewer polyps

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A study conducted at Loma Linda University found a reduction in the risk of developing colorectal polyps in association with consuming specific high fiber foods. The findings were reported in the May, 2011 issue of Nutrition and Cancer.

Yessenia M. Tantamango and colleagues evaluated data from 2,818 participants in the Adventist Health Study-1, which ascertained the consumption of various foods in 1976-77, and Adventist Health Study-2, which determined whether participants in the first study had polyps diagnosed twenty-six years later. While consuming legumes three times or more per week was associated with a 33 percent reduction in the risk of developing colorectal polyps, eating brown rice just once per week was associated with a 40 percent lower risk. Those who consumed cooked green vegetables daily had a 24 percent lower risk of polyps compared to those who consumed them fewer than five times per week. Additionally, dried fruit eaten at least three times a week was associated with a 26 percent decrease in the risk of polyps compared to that associated with less than weekly consumption.

"Legumes, dried fruits, and brown rice all have a high content of fiber, known to dilute potential carcinogens," explained Dr Tantamango. "Additionally, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain detoxifying compounds, which would improve their protective function."

"Eating these foods is likely to decrease your risk for colon polyps, which would in turn decrease your risk for colorectal cancer," she noted. "While a majority of past research has focused on broad food groups, such as fruits and vegetables, in relation to colon cancer, our study focused on specific foods, as well as more narrowed food groups, in relation to colon polyps, a precursor to colon cancer. Our study confirms the results of past studies that have been done in different populations analyzing risks for colon cancer."

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