Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, apoptosis, and colorectal adenomas

Gastroenterology. 2002 Dec;123(6):1770-7. doi: 10.1053/gast.2002.37053.


Background & aims: Observational studies indicate that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce the risk of colorectal neoplasia. The mechanism of this effect could be via modification of apoptotic activity in colonic mucosa. We examined grossly normal rectal mucosa in patients with adenomas and adenoma-free controls to assess the associations between NSAID use, adenomatous polyps, and apoptosis.

Methods: Study participants were drawn from consecutive patients who underwent colonoscopy between August, 1998, and February, 2000. Biopsy specimens were taken from normal-appearing rectal mucosa 10 cm from the anal verge. Apoptosis was scored from coded, H&E-stained sections using morphologic methods. Proliferation was scored using whole crypt mitotic counts. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were conducted to estimate crude and adjusted odds ratios (ORs).

Results: There were 226 patients with adenomas and 493 adenoma-free controls. After adjusting for sex, age, race, and body mass index (BMI), individuals in the highest tertile of regular NSAID use were substantially less likely to have adenomas (OR 0.4; 95% CI: 0.2-0.7) compared with occasional or nonusers. Similarly, compared with the lowest tertile, persons in the highest tertile of rectal mucosal apoptotic activity were much less likely to have adenomas (OR 0.12; 95% CI: 0.07-0.20). NSAID use and apoptotic activity were not correlated (r = 0.10). Mucosal proliferation was not related to adenomas or NSAID use.

Conclusions: Our observations suggest that NSAID use and higher levels of mucosal apoptosis are independently associated with a lower prevalence of adenomas. The study shows a strong field effect for apoptosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / epidemiology
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Adenoma / physiopathology
  • Adenoma / prevention & control*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Control Groups
  • Cytoprotection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rectum / pathology
  • Rectum / physiopathology
  • Regression Analysis


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal