University of Melbourne studies effects of aspirin on bowel cancer

7 July 2015

An international study led by the University of Melbourne has confirmed that long-term regular taking of aspirin or ibuprofen reduces the risk of bowel cancer by more than half for people with the genetic mutation causing Lynch syndrome.

University of Melbourne Public Health School
Study public health at the University of Melbourne

At least 1 in 1000 people in the population have the genetic mutation that causes Lynch syndrome. These people have a much higher rate of bowel cancer than the general population and about half would develop the disease without regular screening.
In a paper published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, University of Melbourne researchers and international collaborators, led by Dr Driss Ait Ouakrim and Dr Aung Ko Win from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health confirmed that those with Lynch syndrome who took aspirin regularly were less likely to develop bowel cancer than Lynch syndrome patients who did not take aspirin.
The research team also uncovered a new finding that Lynch syndrome patients who took ibuprofen regularly, another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, were about 60% less likely to develop bowel cancer compared with those who did not take ibuprofen. This protection was seen in both men and women.
“The main risk reduction method for these people is to have regular colonoscopy screening. Almost nothing is known about if and how lifestyle factors and medications can modify their risk of bowel cancer,” Dr Win said.
“Our data is the first to confirm the finding of a previous international randomised clinical trial that found a protective effect of aspirin on bowel cancer for these high-risk people. Also, we were able to show the similar protective effect of ibuprofen such as Nurofen on bowel cancer for people with Lynch syndrome,” Dr Win said.
These findings are the result of a 15 year study of 1,858 people with Lynch syndrome recruited from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. This is the largest study to date investigating the associations between aspirin, ibuprofen and bowel cancer risk for people with Lynch syndrome.
Further studies are being conducted to help determine the optimal dose, duration and timing of treatment.

About the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

The Melbourne School of Population and Global Health aims to strengthen the understanding, capacity and services of society to meet population health needs and to improve the quality and equity of health care.
The population health approach recognises that health is a capacity or resource rather than a state, a definition which corresponds more to the notion of being able to pursue one’s goals, to acquire skills and education, and to grow.
This broader notion of health recognises the range of social, economic and physical environmental factors that contribute to health (Public Health Agency of Canada).
The Melbourne Master of Public Health (MPH) teaches students to recognize and seek to understand the social determinants of health and disease, the molecular basis of disease in populations, and the influence of physical, social and cultural environments. Prime emphasis is placed on the prevention of disease and injury and the promotion of health and well-being.
Melbourne Master of Public Health Specializations

  • Epidemiology & Biostatistics
  • Gender and Women’s Health
  • Global Health
  • Health Economics & Economic Evaluation
  • Health Program Evaluation
  • Health Social Sciences
  • Indigenous Health
  • Sexual Health

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Learn more about the Master of Public Health at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Public Health Schools Admissions Officer Rachel Brady by emailing or call 1-866-698-7355.