Heavy metals linked to colorectal cancer

I saw a press release this week from Frankfort, Ky. that has some interesting insight on a possible cause of colorectal cancer.

In the LRC news release below, it says Dr. Mark Evers, the director of the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky, believes elevated amounts of heavy metals like arsenic and chromium in the water and soil of Appalachia are also believed to play a role in the region's high lung and colorectal cancer rates.

"You can almost map out the counties that have the highest level of arsenic and chromium to those with the highest cancer rates for both lung and colorectal cancer," Evers said in the news release.

Aspirin: a step to prevention

We wanted to share some really interesting news in the world of colon cancer prevention.

Just last week, a study led by a professor at Newcastle University in England showed that taking two aspirin pills a day (i.e. 600 milligrams) for at least two years will cut the risk of getting colon cancer by 63 percent.

The story on bloomberg.com says this: "Among about 500 study participants who took aspirin for at least two years between 1999 and 2005, 10 developed colorectal cancer by 2010, compared with 23 who took a placebo." 

All of the participants had a gentic condition called Lynch Syndrome that predisposes a person to developing certain cancers.

For more on this, see the story below.

Aspirin Reduces Bowel Cancer Risk by 63 Percent in Study

By Makiko Kitamura - Oct 28, 2011 4:58 AM ET

Two aspirin pills a day may keep the oncologist away, according to a study spanning more than a decade published today in The Lancet medical journal.

Participants who took 600 milligrams of the common painkiller daily for at least two years had a 63 percent lower rate of colorectal cancer than those who took a placebo, according to the study led by John Burn, a professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University in England. The participants all were carriers of Lynch Syndrome, a genetic condition that predisposes a person to developing certain cancers.

While aspirin’s effect on cancer risk has been observed as a secondary finding in previous studies, Burn’s research is the first designed specifically to observe that impact. Similar results were found for endometrial and uterine tumors, also stemming from Lynch syndrome, Burn said.

“This adds to the growing body of evidence showing the importance of aspirin and aspirin-like drugs in the fight against cancer,” Chris Paraskeva, a professor of experimental oncology at the University of Bristol in England, said in a statement.

Among about 500 study participants who took aspirin for at least two years between 1999 and 2005, 10 developed colorectal cancer by 2010, compared with 23 who took a placebo, the researchers found. That represented a 63 percent lower incidence of the disease.

Polyp Surprise

“What surprised us was that there was no difference in the number of people developing polyps, which are thought to be the precursors of cancer,” said Tim Bishop, a professor of genetic epidemiology at the University of Leeds, who led the statistical analysis of the data. “But many fewer patients who had been taking aspirin years before went on to develop cancers.”

Thirty-eight people in the study developed tumors at sites other than the bowel, 16 of whom took aspirin, the researchers said. Five people in the aspirin group developed endometrial cancer, a malignancy in the lining of the womb, compared with 13 in the placebo group, they said.

A follow-up study will compare the effects of different doses of aspirin in people with Lynch syndrome.

The drug has also been shown to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Side effects of taking aspirin include ulcers and internal bleeding in the stomach.

“I’d rather have that than cancer or a heart attack,” Burn told reporters at a news conference in London yesterday.

Funders of the study include aspirin inventor Bayer AG (BAYN), the European Union, Cancer Research UK and the U.K. Medical Research Council.

-- Editors: Kristen Hallam, Robert Valpuesta

To contact the reporters on this story: Makiko Kitamura in London at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net

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