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TAKING ASPIRIN MAY REDUCE THE RISK OF COLORECTAL CANCER

SHARE TAKING ASPIRIN MAY REDUCE THE RISK OF COLORECTAL CANCER

Evidence continues to mount that people who regularly take aspirin have a substantially lower risk of developing cancer of the colon or rectum.

The latest study warned, however, that aspirin should not be used as a preventive measure until more is known about the proper dosage, since the best dose for preventing colorectal cancer may not be the best for preventing heart disease. Research has shown that taking an aspirin every other day will cut the risk of heart attacks.In the study published in Monday's Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers tracked 47,900 male health professionals ages 40 to 75 for six years, quizzing them every two years on aspirin use, diet, family medical history and lifestyle. The group is being examined for other diseases as well.

The study found that men taking aspirin at least twice a week had a 32 percent lower risk of getting colorectal cancer and a 50 percent lower risk of having the advanced form of the disease.

Previous research shows that aspirin's affect on colorectal cancer in women is probably the same, the report said.

"We do think there is strong evidence . . . that aspirin reduces risk of colorectal cancer," said Dr. Edward Giovannucci of Harvard Medical School, which conducted the study.

The study did not say why aspirin appears to lower the risk, but said other pain relievers have shown a similar effect.

Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, with 152,000 new cases and 57,000 deaths in the United States last year.

The Harvard study is useful because of its size and because researchers could adjust their findings for such factors as age, weight, family history and smoking and dietary habits, said Dr. Harinder S. Garewal, a cancer prevention and control specialist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

But Dr. Moshe Shike of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said that while the usefulness of aspirin in preventing colorectal cancer is not completely proved, there is strong evidence for other methods, such as early screening for tumors and a diet low in fat and high in fruit, vegetables, beans and cereals.

"At the present time we cannot tell people, `Take aspirin to prevent colon cancer,"' Shike said.