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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Harvard study explains how aspirin might prevent some colon cancers
Taking aspirin regularly has long been known to prevent colorectal cancer in some people, but why that’s true has been unclear.
Researchers have suspected that blocking the enzyme COX-2 might be the mechanism involved. Dr. Andrew T. Chan and his Harvard Medical School colleagues confirm a connection to COX-2 in an article to appear in tomorrow’s New England Journal of Medicine.
"That’s a pretty striking difference," Chan said in an interview.
It’s too soon to suggest taking aspirin to prevent colorectal cancer, he said. At this point no one knows how to predict who will develop COX-2 negative or COX-2 positive forms of the cancer. Further studies are needed to see if people who develop polyps that are COX-2 positive, or people who had COX-2 positive tumors and are concerned about recurrence, might benefit from aspirin.
"We need to ask whether there are alternative strategies for targeting the COX pathway that have better efficacy or lower rates of adverse effects," Markowitz writes.