Colon polyps come in two forms, namely hyperplastic and adenomatous. Hyperplastic polyps are benign and do not indicate any future problems with colon cancer, whereas adenomatous polyps are precancerous and, if left in place, can eventually develop into colon cancer. These are the types of polyps that are sought during a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Early removal of the polyp results in a significant decrease in the chances that a patient will develop colon cancer. People with a prior colon polyp have as much as a 50% chance of developing more colon polyps within three years of their diagnosis.
Supplementation with NAC has been shown to reduce the proliferation of certain cells lining the colon and may reduce the risk of colon cancer in people with recurrent polyps in the colon. [Estensen RD, Levy M, Klopp SJ, et al. N-acetylcysteine suppression of the proliferative index in the colon of patients with previous adenomatous colonic polyps. Cancer Lett 1999;147: pp.109-14].
Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could act to prevent the development of polyps in the colon, which are precursors to most colorectal cancers. In one study, patients who took aspirin or other NSAIDs more than 15 times per month at some time during the five years prior to the study were defined as "regular users"; patients who never took medication more than 15 times per month were defined as "non-users". After accounting for factors such as diet, lifestyle and family medical history, Dr. Sandler found that regular users of aspirin and other NSAIDs were only half as likely to harbor colon polyps as non-users.
"Our study supports the idea that some mechanism in aspirin and other NSAIDs has a protective effect when it comes to colon cancer," said Dr. Sandler. "More significantly, our results indicate that this protective effect occurs early in the process of cancer development, helping us to pinpoint where in the cancer development sequence these drugs might work best." [ Gastroenterology, March 1998]
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