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Health and Medicine

Aspirin helps prevent colon cancer, but not in everyone
A simple test shows whether taking aspirin can cut the risk of colon cancer in half, or provide no benefit at all

Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
Dr. Sandy Markowitz is an oncologist and head of the cancer genetics program at Case Western Reserve University's Medical School. He's coauthor of a study that shows people at risk of colon cancer benefit from taking aspirin IF they have high levels of the enzyme 15-PGDH. Without the enzyme, aspirin is not effective.
Courtesy of CWRU
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A new study explains why some people at risk of colon cancer benefit from taking aspirin, while others do not. 

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports a simple lab test determines which group individuals fall into.

St.Clair - aspirin and colon cancer

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Fifty thousand Americans will die from colon cancer this year. It’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths.  A new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine points to a potentially life-saving test for people at risk of the disease.

Oncologist Sandy Markowitz, head of the cancer genetics program at Case Western Reserve University's Medical School, recommends people get tested for an enzyme called 15-PGDH.  He says if you have the enzyme, aspirin can help, if not, don’t bother. 

“There’s a simple test and that will tell you whether if you take aspirin you can cut your risk of getting colon cancer in half, or if you shouldn’t bother because it won’t benefit you and you run the risk of getting ulcers from the aspirin.” 

Markowitz recommends the test as part of a colonoscopy. The study looked at the outcomes of more than 100,000 participants over three decades. 

The colon cancer study was funded in part by a charity founded by Katie Couric, whose husband died of colon cancer.

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