"The principle of stool tests in early detection of large bowel cancer is the detection of usually very small amounts of blood from the tumors," Brenner said. "Use of low-dose aspirin facilitates this detection."
His study is reported in the Dec. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer will kill about 51,300 Americans this year. It is the third most common type of malignancy found in men and women, with the exception of skin cancer.
"In the past, [giving aspirin] was felt you'd increase the bleeding from the stomach and be misled and think it was from the colon," said Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, a gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.
"When the results are validated by colonoscopy, in that type of very pure setting, you're looking at this very sensitive test and proving (the aspirin) is not affecting specificity," Schnoll-Sussman said. "So we know that low-dose aspirin doesn't tamper with result and can enhance, for a very short time, the sensitivity of the test."
Dr. Frank A. Sinicrope, a professor of medicine and oncology at the Mayo Clinic, said while the study is "interesting and provocative," it is not definitive because it wasn't randomized. The pathology results also weren't independently reviewed, he noted.
However, Sinicrope and Schnoll-Sussman said it's possible that future guidelines for those taking stool screening tests -- usually individuals over age 50 -- will encourage low-dose aspirin use beforehand.
"Its a premature conclusion, but one suggested by these data," Sinicrope said, adding that a randomized trial would first be necessary.
"It will be important to replicate these findings in an even larger study," Brenner agreed.
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