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Lower the risk of colorectal cancer

Senior Lecturer Gadi Rennert, MD

According to a joint Israeli-American study, cholesterol-reducing drugs can lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer. The first large-scale research on the beneficial effects of cholesterol-reducing drugs on colorectal cancer was conducted in Israel over the past six years. The research showed that people who used cholesterol reducing drugs had a 47 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer compared with those who did not take them.

According to estimates of the American Cancer Society, in 2005 colon and rectum cancer will be the third most common cancer in the U.S. with over 140,000 new cases discovered and almost 60,000 deaths. Finding ways of reducing these numbers is one of the primary goals of modern cancer research. About six years ago a joint research team from the University of Michigan led by Dr. Stephen B. Gruber, and the KHC National Center of Cancer Control in Haifa led by Dr. Gadi Rennert, started the first large-scale research on the causes of colon cancer. The research was conducted in northern Israel and included about 4,000 people, about half of whom were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and the other half were healthy individuals.

The large intestine (Illustration photo)

The research examined various factors that might have had influence upon the development of colorectal cancer including age, gender, race, nutrition, exercise, usage of aspirin and family history of colorectal cancer. The researchers have shown that people who used cholesterol-reducing drugs for a period of five years or more have approximately 46% less chance of getting colorectal cancer.

The cholesterol reducing drug in question is part of a group of drugs called Statins. These are currently used to reduce the LDL cholesterol level in the blood. LDL is considered "bad" cholesterol; it tends to deposit fats in the lining of blood vessels and can lead to heart attacks.

Although the results are promising, the evidence is still considered by experts to be circumstantial. Before it will be possible to develop specific Statin drugs aimed at reducing the risk of colorectal cancer (and possibly other types of cancer) extensive clinical trials will need to be performed in which the new drugs will be tested in controlled groups along side placebos in order to show strong preventative capabilities. Currently there are at least two Phase II clinical trials using Statin-based drugs planned to begin early next year which hope to shown the drugs ability to prevent both melanoma and colorectal cancer.

Iddo Genuth

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