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Fish Oil and Aspirin: Bowel Cancer Avoidable with One-Two Punch?

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New study will examine the cancer-fighting power of fish oil and aspirin. (istockphoto) istockphoto

(CBS) Could aspirin and fish oil hold the secret to preventing colon cancer? Scientists in England are embarking on a study to find out.

Previous studies showed that a substance in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), can provide some protection against precancerous colon polyps, according to a statement issued by the University of Leeds, which is coordinating the study.

Aspirin, too, has shown to be protective.

Now the scientists think a combination of fish oil and asprin might be even more protective than either taken alone.

"A major advantage of EPA and aspirin is that they are both safe, have few side effects and they are already used widely by people who have heart disease or who have had a stroke," study leader Dr. Mark Hull, a professor at the university, said in the statement. "Other drugs that have been shown to prevent bowel polyps have been linked to an increase in heart attacks, so they are unsuitable for widespread use."

The study will involve more than 1,000 patients and will be conducted at dozens of hospitals in England.

"If this treatment is shown to be safe and effective, then in future it could be given to more patients who have been found to have these pre-cancerous bowel polyps and are at risk of developing others in the future," Dr. Hull said.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide.

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