Aspirin potently inhibits oxidative DNA strand breaks: implications for cancer chemoprevention

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002 May 3;293(2):705-9. doi: 10.1016/S0006-291X(02)00271-1.


Epidemiological studies have suggested that the use of aspirin is associated with a decreased incidence of human malignancies, particularly colorectal cancer. Since reactive oxygen species (ROS) are critically involved in multistage carcinogenesis, this study was undertaken to examine the ability of aspirin to inhibit ROS-mediated DNA damage. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)+Cu(II) and hydroquinone (HQ) + Cu(II) were used to cause oxidative DNA strand breaks in phiX-174 plasmid DNA. We demonstrated that the presence of aspirin at concentrations (0.5-2 mM) compatible with amounts in plasma during chronic anti-inflammatory therapy resulted in a marked inhibition of oxidative DNA damage induced by either H2O2/Cu(II) or HQ/Cu(II). The inhibition of oxidative DNA damage by aspirin was exhibited in a concentration-dependent manner. Moreover, aspirin was found to be much more potent than the hydroxyl radical scavengers, mannitol and dimethyl sulfoxide, in protecting against the H2O2/Cu(II)-mediated DNA strand breaks. Since the reduction of Cu(II) to Cu(I) is crucially involved in both H2O2/Cu(II)- and HQ/Cu(II)-mediated formation of hydroxyl radical or its equivalent, and the subsequent oxidative DNA damage, we examined whether aspirin could inhibit this Cu(II)/Cu(I) redox cycle. It was observed that aspirin at concentrations that showed the inhibitory effect on oxidative DNA damage did not alter the Cu(II)/Cu(I) redox cycle in either H2O2/Cu(II) or HQ/Cu(II) system. In addition, aspirin was not found to significantly scavenge H2O2. This study demonstrates for the first time that aspirin potently inhibits both H2O2/Cu(II)- and HQ/Cu(II)-mediated oxidative DNA strand breaks most likely through scavenging the hydroxyl radical or its equivalent derived from these two systems. The potent inhibition of oxidative DNA damage by aspirin may thus partially contribute to its anticancer activities observed in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aspirin / pharmacology*
  • Copper / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Copper / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / drug effects*
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hydroquinones / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Kinetics
  • Oxidants / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Hydroquinones
  • Oxidants
  • Copper
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Aspirin
  • hydroquinone