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Scientists Exploring How Aspirin May Guard Against Cancer

US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health 
Health Headlines (

July 2, 2013

Aspirin and related drugs may fight cancer by lowering rates of DNA mutation, a small new study suggests.

It's known that aspirin reduces the risk for some cancers, and these findings point to a possible explanation, according to the researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.

They analyzed tissue samples from 13 patients with a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer. The patients were followed for between six and 19 years. Patients took aspirin at different times during the study.

Mutations in tissue samples collected while patients were on aspirin had accumulated an average of 10 times more slowly than in samples obtained when patients were not taking aspirin, according to the study, which was published online June 13 in the journal PLoS Genetics. The study did not, however, prove a cause-and-effect link between aspirin and slower rates of gene mutations.

"Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are commonly available and cost-effective medications, may exert cancer-preventing effects by lowering mutation rates," researcher Carlo Maley, a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a university news release.

"This is the first study to measure genome-wide mutation rates of a pre-malignant tissue within patients for more than a decade, and the first to evaluate how aspirin affects those rates," he added.

Maley said aspirin may lower DNA mutation rates by reducing inflammation, and plans to further investigate this theory.


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