News Briefs

Published: Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010
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Tentative Link Established Between Skin Cancer and Colon Cancer

Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, researchers are reporting that a syndrome associated with increased risk of certain skin cancers may be subset of a condition that increases colon cancer risk. Investigators found that certain people with Lynch syndrome— an inherited condition that predisposes a person to colon cancer—are also at greater risk for developing certain skin cancers, a condition known as Muir-Torre syndrome.

According to Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD, Professor, Human Cancer Genetics Program, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ohio State and colleagues, the skin lesions in patients with Muir-Torre syndrome are characterized by the same molecular defects as tumors in patients with Lynch syndrome. Since skin tumors often develop before Lynch syndrome is diagnosed in these patients, “all individuals who are diagnosed with a Muir- Torre syndrome–related skin lesions should be screened for Lynch syndrome,” the researchers advised.

The study, published in a recent Journal of the National Cancer Institute, examined 152 Lynch syndrome patients from 50 different families in order to determine the frequency of Muir-Torre syndrome in patients with Lynch syndrome.

Results indicated that 14 families (28%) with Lynch syndrome had one family member who had a history of a Muir-Torre syndrome– related tumor (9.2% of 152 individuals with Lynch syndrome), leading the study team to suggest that “Muir-Torre syndrome be defined as a variant of Lynch syndrome.”

Dr. de la Chapelle’s group also observed that 57% of individuals affected by both conditions presented with skin disease first.

Thus, they recommended that patients with Muir-Torre syndrome undergo further genetic testing to determine if they have Lynch syndrome, in which case intensive cancer surveillance would be warranted. Conversely, they suggest that an annual skin examination is a “reasonable strategy” for patients with Lynch syndrome.

Aspirin Can Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer, Review of Studies Suggests

Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin may reduce breast cancer by up to 20%, according to an extensive review carried out by experts at Guy’s Hospital in london. They stress that further research is needed to determine the best type, dose and duration, and whether the benefits of regularly using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) outweigh the side effects, especially for high-risk groups.

“Our review of research published over the last 27 years suggests that, in addition to possible prevention, there may also be a role for NSAIDs in the treatment of women with established breast cancer” says Professor Ian Fentiman from the Hedley Atkins Breast Unit at the hospital, part of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

“NSAID use could be combined with hormone therapy or used to relieve symptoms in the commonest cause of cancer-related deaths in women,” said Professor Fentiman.

Professor Fentiman and Mr. Avi Agrawal reviewed 21 studies (covering more than 37,000 women) published between 1980 and 2007. Their review included 11 studies of women with breast cancer and 10 studies that compared women who did with women who did not have the disease.

“The purpose of a review like this is to look at a wide range of published studies and see if it is possible to pull together all the findings and come to any overarching conclusions,” explains Professor Fentiman. “This includes looking at any conflicting results and exploring how the studies were carried out.

“For example, some of the studies we looked at as part of this review found no links between NSAIDs and reduced levels of breast cancer, while others suggested that taking NSAIDs can reduce the breast cancer risk by about one-fifth.

“Having weighed up the findings from over 20 studies, we have concluded that NSAIDs may well offer significant protection against developing breast cancer in the first place and may provide a useful addition to the treatment currently available to women who already have the disease.

“Recent studies of NSAIDs use have shown about a 20% risk reduction in the incidence of breast cancer, but this benefit may be confined to aspirin use alone and not other NSAIDs.”

Previous studies have suggested that NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen, which have traditionally been used as mainstream nonprescription analgesics, may provide protection against coronary heart disease and some malignancies, such as colorectal cancer.

However, Professor Fentiman is urging caution until further research fully examines the pros and cons of using NSAIDs to prevent and treat breast cancer.

“Our review did not look at the potential side effects of using NSAIDs on a regular basis,” stresses Professor Fentiman. “These can include gastrointestinal bleeding and perforation, which can carry a significant risk of ill health and death.

“It would be essential to take these negative effects into account before we could justify routinely using NSAIDs like aspirin to prevent breast cancer.

“More research is clearly needed and we are not advocating that women take these nonprescription drugs routinely until the benefits and risks are clearer.

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