An Aspirin a Day Keeps the Cancer Away in Obese Patients with Lynch Syndrome

A regular dose of aspirin may reduce the risk of early cancer development.

A regular dose of aspirin may reduce the risk of early cancer development.

It is a known fact that obesity puts patients at higher risk for cancer, especially in the womb and colon. However, a new study suggests that a daily dose of aspirin could reduce this risk for overweight patients.

The study, conducted by researchers at Newcastle University and the University of Leeds, UK, found that being overweight more than doubles the risk of bowel cancer in people with Lynch Syndrome. Lynch Syndrome is an inherited genetic disorder that affects genes responsible for detecting and repairing damage in the DNA.

However, over the course of a 10 year study, it was discovered that a regular dose of aspirin could reduce this risk.

“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,” said lead researcher Professor Sir John Burn, professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University. “This research adds to the growing body of evidence which links an increased inflammatory process to an increased risk of cancer. Obesity increases the inflammatory response. One explanation for our findings is that the aspirin may be suppressing that inflammation which opens up new avenues of research into the cause of cancer.”

The randomized controlled trial is part of the CAPP 2 study which included scientists from over 43 centers in 16 countries. They followed nearly 1000 patients with Lynch Syndrome for nearly 10 years.

Of the patients studied, 937 began either taking 2 aspirins daily for 2 years, or they took a placebo. After 10 years, follow-up showed that 55 patients had bowel cancers, with overweight patients 2.75 times more likely to develop the disease.

The follow-up on patients taking 2 aspirin per day revealed that their risk was the same whether they were obese or not.

“For those with Lynch Syndrome, we found that every unt of BMI above what is considered healthy increased the risk of bowel cancer by 7%,” said Professor John Mathers, professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University who led this part of the study. “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. The lesson for all of us is that everyone should try to maintain a healthy weight and for those already obese the best thing is to lose weight. However, for many patients this can be very difficult so a simple aspirin may be able to help this group.”

While this latest study reveals a decreased risk for those who take a regular dose of aspirin, patients are advised to consult their physicians before beginning the regimen, as regular aspirin intake has been associated with stomach complaints, including ulcers. However, for those with strong family histories of the deadly disease, the benefits could outweigh the cost, as many pharmacies sell drugs which block acid production in the stomach over the counter.

Further study is needed in this area as scientists suspect that the aspirin is affecting an underlying mechanism that predisposes someone to cancer. Since the benefits are occurring before the early stages of tumor development, the effect must be changing the cells that are conditioned to become cancerous later in life.

While scientists contemplate this latest question in the world of oncology, the team of researchers prepare for another study of nearly 3000 people across the world to test the effect of different doses of aspirin. The trial will compare 2 aspirin a day with a range of lower doses to see if the protection offered is the same.