Importance: Aspirin use reduces the risk of colorectal carcinoma. Experimental evidence implicates a role of RAF kinases in up-regulation of prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2, cyclooxygenase 2), suggesting that BRAF-mutant colonic cells might be less sensitive to the antitumor effects of aspirin than BRAF-wild-type neoplastic cells.
Objective: To examine whether the association of aspirin intake with colorectal cancer risk differs according to status of tumor BRAF oncogene mutation.
Design and setting: We collected biennial questionnaire data on aspirin use and followed up participants in the Nurses' Health Study (from 1980) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (from 1986) until July 1, 2006, for cancer incidence and until January 1, 2012, for cancer mortality. Duplication-method Cox proportional cause-specific hazards regression for competing risks data was used to compute hazard ratios (HRs) for colorectal carcinoma incidence according to BRAF mutation status.
Main outcomes and measures: Incidence of colorectal cancer cases according to tumor BRAF mutation status.
Results: Among 127,865 individuals, with 3,165,985 person-years of follow-up, we identified 1226 incident rectal and colon cancers with available molecular data. Compared with nonuse, regular aspirin use was associated with lower BRAF-wild-type cancer risk (multivariable HR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.64 to 0.83; age-adjusted incidence rate difference [RD], -9.7; 95% CI, -12.6 to -6.7 per 100,000 person-years). This association was observed irrespective of status of tumor PTGS2 expression or PIK3CA or KRAS mutation. In contrast, regular aspirin use was not associated with a lower risk of BRAF-mutated cancer (multivariable HR, 1.03; 95% CI, 0.76 to 1.38; age-adjusted, incidence RD, 0.7; 95% CI, -0.3 to 1.7 per 100,000 person-years: P for heterogeneity = .037, between BRAF-wild-type vs BRAF-mutated cancer risks). Compared with no aspirin use, aspirin use of more than 14 tablets per week was associated with a lower risk of BRAF-wild-type cancer (multivariable HR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.25 to 0.75; age-adjusted incidence RD, -19.8; 95% CI, -26.3 to -13.3 per 100,000 person-years). The relationship between the number of aspirin tablets per week and colorectal cancer risk differed significantly by BRAF mutation status (P for heterogeneity = .005).
Conclusions and relevance: Regular aspirin use was associated with lower risk of BRAF-wild-type colorectal cancer but not with BRAF-mutated cancer risk. These findings suggest that BRAF-mutant colon tumor cells may be less sensitive to the effect of aspirin. Given the modest absolute risk difference, further investigations are necessary to determine clinical implications of our findings.