Genes Determine Aspirin’s Preventive Effect on Colon Cancer

Consuming a daily dose of aspirin can aid in reducing an individual’s risk of colon cancer. However, a new study has discovered that the lowered risk of colorectal cancer is impacted by the mutation of a gene known as BRAF.

Colon cancer is a major cause of cancer mortality worldwide. In 2008, close to 1.23 million new colon cancer diagnoses were made, with over 608,000 individuals succumbing to the disease that year.

Published in JAMA, this new study was the result of data collected from 2 large studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, both of which included over 127,000 people.

Led by Reiko Nishihara of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, researchers discovered that individuals who had a lowered risk of developing colorectal cancer had the normal form of the BRAF gene. Regular aspirin use reduced the risk of developing colorectal cancer in this portion of the population by 27 percent.

However, individuals who had the mutated version of BRAF saw no benefits at all. The study results indicate that colon cancer cells with the BRAF mutation are much less susceptible to the beneficial effects of aspirin.

The study claims that there was no statistically significant interaction between post-diagnosis aspirin consumption and BRAF mutation status in colon cancer survival. This indicates that the protective benefits of aspirin use are only impactful at the early stages of tumor progression, but not at later stages.

The authors claim that identifying cancer subtypes that can be prevented by aspirin is significant – it clarifies our understanding of the molecular pathways of colorectal cancer and the functions by which aspirin exerts its beneficial advantages.

The authors conclude by claiming that further research is needed to determine the clinical implications of their findings. They believe their data will provide additional support for a causal relationship between aspirin use and risk reduction for a specific subtype of colon cancer.

Written by Elijah Lamond