Aspirin, Other OTC Painkillers May Increase Colon Cancer Risk In Some People: Study

While aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in many people, new research suggests that for a small part of the population, with a specific set of genes, the medications may actually increase their colon cancer risk. 

In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on March 17, researchers looked at data on 16,000 people of European descent and found a 30% decreased risk of colon cancer from taking over-the-counter painkillers like Bayer and Motrin. However, between 4% and 9% of the population of those examined have TA or AA genotypes, which appear to cause those same drugs to nearly double their risk of colorectal cancer.

Researchers indicate that the new findings could prove useful to doctors trying to determine whether patient’s should regularly use OTC painkillers for certain ailments and to determine who the drugs would aid in preventing colon cancer.

“In this genome-wide investigation of gene x environmental interactions, use of aspirin and/or NSAIDs was associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer, and this association differed according to genetic variation at 2 SNPs at chromosomes 12 and 15,” the researchers concluded. “Validation of these findings in additional populations may facilitate targeted colorectal cancer prevention strategies.”

About 137,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society. With a little more than 50,000 of those people likely to die from the disease, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States, and the third leading cause of cancer death.

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