Experts have found that being overweight more than doubles the risk of bowel cancer in people with Lynch Syndrome, an inherited genetic disorder which affects the genes responsible for detecting and repairing damage in the DNA.
Nearly half of sufferers develop cancer, mainly in the bowel and womb, including 19-year-old Stephen Sutton who raised more than £5 million for charity before he died from bowel cancer in May 2014.
The ten-year study, conducted by researchers at Newcastle University and Leeds University, found this risk among people with a high BMI could be counteracted by taking a regular dose of aspirin.
Professor Sir John Burn, professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University, said: “This is important for people with Lynch Syndrome but affects the rest of us too.
“Lots of people struggle with their weight and this suggests the extra cancer risk can be cancelled by taking an aspirin.
“This research adds to the growing body of evidence which links an increased inflammatory process to an increased risk of cancer. Obesity increases the inflammatory response. One explanation for our findings is that the aspirin may be suppressing that inflammation which opens up new avenues of research into the cause of cancer.”
The team studied nearly 1,000 patients with Lynch Syndrome in 16 different countries, who either took two aspirins every day for two years or a placebo.
When they were followed up ten years later, 55 had developed bowel cancers and those who were obese were more than twice as likely to develop this cancer. Patients with Lynch Syndrome saw their risk of bowel cancer increase by 7 per cent for every unit of BMI above what is considered healthy.
Nick Bason, director of external affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We know that maintaining a healthy weight can help stack the odds against bowel cancer. This research is helpful in furthering our understanding of the risk of bowel cancer in people with Lynch syndrome, and the role aspirin can play in helping reduce that risk.”
Professor Matthew Seymour, Cancer Research UK’s bowel cancer expert, said: “This information is helpful for advising people with an inherited risk of bowel cancer.
“But it’s also important as it gives new clues about the mechanisms which may underlie the rising incidence of bowel cancer in the general population, and provides important new leads for scientists working to understanding what triggers this disease and how to combat it.”