The intake of aspirin and omega-3 is safe and effective in reducing the chances of bowel cancer in high-risk patients, according to a new clinical trial. In the trial, published in The Lancet, these low cost medications reduce the number of precancerous polyps – a slight increase, usually benign – in patients who have been found to have a high risk of developing colon cancer. The results showed that patients taking aspirin had 22% less polyps than those taking placebo.
Those who took omega-3, also called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), had 9% less polyps than those taking placebo.
Although aspirin and EPA had beneficial effects on polypeptide numbers individually, the combination of aspirin and EPA appeared to be even more effective because it provided another layer of prevention, along with colonoscopy, the researchers said.
"The test shows that both aspirin and EPA have preventative effects, which is particularly exciting given that both are relatively cheap and safe compounds provided to patients," said Mark Hull, a professor at the University of Leeds, UK.
More than 700 patients were involved in the study, all of whom had a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer after colonoscopy.
Participants took 300 mg aspirin tablets, 2 grams of EPA in four capsules, a combination of aspirin and EPA or just placebo.
The results showed that aspirin and omega-3 reduced the number of colon clefts in the patient one year after the colonoscopy (large bowel test).
However, they did not reduce the chances of an individual with polyps present in the intestines. It is important to treat aspirin and EPA without increasing the risk of bleeding. However, individuals who had taken EPA themselves had a slight increase in symptoms of stomach upset.
Further research is needed to test aspirin and EPA treatment together for polyp prevention, researchers say.