Daily aspirin dose draws back obesity-related cancer risks – study

© Tim Boyle
Simple aspirin could be a powerful weapon for overweight people to reduce any additional risks of developing colon cancer stemming from a genetic predisposition called Lynch Syndrome, a new international study has revealed.

The research led by Newcastle University’s Professor Sir John Burn followed nearly 1,000 patients in 43 medical centers across 16 countries, who suffer from the syndrome which affects genes responsible for detecting and repairing damage in DNA.

The decade-long study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, revealed that being overweight more than doubles the risk of developing cancer in patients with Lynch Syndrome.

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Two sets of patients who either took 600mg of aspirin daily for two years or a placebo, simulated medically ineffectual treatment. The results of the 937 patients who took part in the study were reviewed ten years later.

“This is important for people with Lynch Syndrome, but affects the rest of us too. Lots of people struggle with their weight and this suggests the extra cancer risk can be cancelled by taking an aspirin,” Burn said.

Researchers discovered that 55 patients with the syndrome had eventually developed colon cancers – but those who were overweight were 2.75 times as likely to develop this type of a disease.

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However, for the patients who were taking aspirin, the risk remained the same regardless of their body mass.

“What is surprising is that even in people with a genetic predisposition for cancer, obesity is also a driver of the disease. Indeed, the obesity-associated risk was twice as great for people with Lynch Syndrome as for the general population,” said Professor John Mathers, Professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University.

In addition scientists discovered that every extra unit of body mass index (BMI) above healthy threshold increased the risk of cancer by 7 percent. In order to fight the potential risk of the decease, besides taking aspirin, researchers urged their patients to try and lose weight first as constant use of aspirin can cause stomach ulcers.

“Our study suggests that the daily aspirin dose of 600 mg per day removed the majority of the increased risk associated with higher BMI. However, this needs to be shown in a further study to confirm the extent of the protective power of the aspirin with respect to BMI,” said Professor Tim Bishop from the University of Leeds.

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Now the researchers are in the process of recruiting 3,000 more patients for a follow-up study on the effects of different doses of aspirin for Lynch Syndrome patients. Scientists believe that aspirin tackles the root mechanism by changing the cells which are predisposed to become cancerous and want to test this hypothesis further.

“We may be seeing a mechanism in humans whereby aspirin is encouraging genetically damaged stem cells to undergo programmed cell death, this would have an impact on cancer,” says Burns.