A drug prescribed for gout (search) may offer colon cancer protection, a new study shows.

The drug Zyloprim (search) reduced risk of colon cancer by two-thirds, reports researcher Gad Rennert, MD, PhD, director of the CHS National Cancer Control Center and Technion Public Health Forum (search) in Haifa, Israel.

Rennert presented these findings at the annual Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research conference held this week in Seattle.

Zyloprim "warrants further investigation," he says. The drug is a mainstay treatment for preventing gout attacks, because it blocks production of uric acid (search), which builds in and around joints and leads to joint inflammation and pain. The medication also blocks the production of free radicals (search), unstable molecules that have been linked to DNA damage and potentially cancer.

Essentially, Zyloprim acts as an antioxidant — one of many chemicals that reduce or prevent damage caused by free radicals in the body.

While no human studies have looked at Zyloprim's affects on reducing the risks of colon cancer, there has been preliminary evidence that the drug may help patients with advanced colon cancer live longer, says Rennert.

In this study, he and his colleagues examined medical records for a large group of people — 1,780 living in northern Israel, all diagnosed with colon cancer. They matched the data with a similar group of who didn't have colon cancer.

In addition, researchers conducted in-person interviews with each study participant, asking about their medication use during the previous five years.

They found a "significantly reduced risk" of colon cancer among those taking Zyloprim — a 67 percent reduction in incidence of colorectal cancer after five years of use. The effect continued to be seen even after taking into account factors that might increase the risk of colorectal cancer — such as family history, ethnicity, physical inactivity, and decreased vegetable consumption. The reduction in risks was seen also after accounting for other factors that have been linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research.