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Aspirin's ability to protect against colorectal cancer may depend on inflammatory pathways
Date:3/9/2011

The reduced risk of colorectal cancer associated with taking aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be confined to individuals already at risk because of elevations in a particular inflammatory factor in the blood. In a paper in the March issue of Gastroenterology, investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report finding that higher baseline levels of a novel inflammatory marker indicated increased risk of developing colorectal tumors and also predicted who might benefit from taking aspirin or NSAIDs.

"These findings suggest that a blood biomarker may be helpful in deciding whether individuals should take aspirin or NSAIDs to reduce their cancer risk," says Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, of the MGH Gastrointestinal Unit, the paper's lead author. "They also indicate that chronic inflammatory pathways are quite complex and further studies are needed to understand which facets of the inflammatory response are most associated with the development of colorectal cancer."

In recent years, considerable research has supported the importance of inflammation in the development of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer. Many studies have found reduced incidence of colorectal cancer among individuals who regularly take aspirin or other NSAIDs, and disorders such as colitis and inflammatory bowel disease are known to increase the risk. To investigate whether moderately elevated levels of chronic inflammation also raise the risk of colorectal cancer, the investigators analyzed data from the Nurses Health Study (NHS), which has followed more than 120,000 female registered nurses since 1976, gathering comprehensive health information from its participants every two years.

The current study analyzed data from NHS participants who had provided a blood sample in 1989 or 1990 and were cancer-free at that time. After identifying 280 part
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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