Viagra could help cut the risk of bowel and colon cancer

A low daily dose of Viagra was found to prevent the formation of polyps – clumps of cells on the intestines which may become cancerous – according to research by Dr Derren Browning

Viagra was able to cut the number of polyps in half in an animal model genetically designed to have a high incidence of colorectal cancer – also known as bowel cancer and colon cancer.

Dr Browning, a cancer researcher at the Georgia Cancer Centre and at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, hopes to continue the research in a clinical trial.

It would involve testing patients considered at high risk of colorectal cancer, including those with a family history of the disease, as well as multiple previous polyps and chronic intestinal inflammation such as colitis.

Lab mice with a genetic mutation that also occurs in humans, causing the mice to produce hundreds of polyps – almost always resulting in colorectal cancer – were treated with drinking water laced with Viagra.

Dr Browning’s team found that the mice developed a reduced number of polyps.

“Giving a baby dose of Viagra can reduce the amount of tumours in these animals by half,” Dr Browning said.

Viagra works by relaxing the smooth muscle cells around blood vessels so those vessels can fill with blood much more easily, which is how it helps men with erectile dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension.

Dr Browning’s laboratory has discovered that it also increases the levels of a chemical which suppresses excessive cell proliferation in the intestinal lining.

“When we give Viagra, we shrink the whole proliferating compartment,” said Dr Browning. “Proliferating cells are more subject to mutations that cause cancer.”

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