Sometimes it seems like medications get a bad rap. We often hear about the possible risks, negative side effects and potential complications from the latest prescription or over-the-counter treatment, and it’s easy to conclude that medications create more problems than they solve. While it’s good to be aware of any potential risks associated with the medications you are taking, it’s important to remember that not all side effects are necessarily bad news. For instance, did you know that getting your flu shot could cut your risk of heart attack or stroke by nearly 50 percent? Or that beta-blockers used to treat hypertension can halve your risk of developing vascular dementia?
You can add nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, to that list of medications with positive health benefits. Researchers have reason to believe that these medications could play an important role in preventing the recurrence of colon polyps after polyp removal.
Colon cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States. Many risk factors can increase your risk of developing this disease, including a family history or personal history of adenomatous polyps. New polyps will develop in at least 30 percent of individuals who have previously had a polyp removed.
M. Hassan Murad, M.D., a clinical epidemiologist and preventive medicine physician at Mayo Clinic, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of clinical trial data from 15 randomized control trials involving 12,234 patients. In this study, researchers compared low and high-dose aspirin therapy, calcium, vitamin D, and folic acid individually and in various combinations.
The researchers noted that nonaspirin NSAIDs such as ibuprofen were more successful at preventing growth of advanced adenomas in most patients than other medications or nutritional supplements. Aspirin ranked second in terms of polyp prevention and had much less additional risk, a factor which Murad said may be attractive to many patients.
"We knew that aspirin and other NSAIDs have a protective effect, and that a number of other nutritional supplements have also been studied for their effectiveness in preventing cancer," said Murad. "What we didn't know is how they compared to each other."
Because nearly 85 percent of all colon cancers stem from untreated adenomatous polyps, Murad believes that establishing treatments to inhibit polyp growth can ultimately prevent the majority of colon cancer cases. However, he strongly encourages all patients to discuss the pros and cons with their doctor if they are considering a NSAID regimen.
“It is important that patients and doctors have a discussion on the various risks and benefits of any medication or other therapy," he adds. "While a research publication may contain promising findings, it is generalized information, and each individual is different. So their care will be individualized, as well" (Source: Medical Xpress).
Whether or not an aspirin or NSAID regimen is the right decision for you, it is still important to take preventative steps to limit your risk of developing colon cancer. This means staying current with colon screenings. Current guidelines recommended that individuals of average risk begin baseline colonoscopy screening at the age of 50. African Americans should begin screening at age 45 due to increased disease risk. Individuals who have a family history of colon cancer or adenomatous polyps should talk to their doctor about earlier screenings.
In addition to staying current with colon screenings, you can drastically cut your risk of colon cancer by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. These include:
There are plenty of steps you can take to keep colon cancer at bay, so why not try them all? Start making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle today, and talk to your doctor about whether a NSAID regimen is right for you. A little prevention goes a long way!