5-aminosalicylic acid is an attractive candidate agent for chemoprevention of colon cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is classically subdivided into ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD). Patients with IBD have increased risk for colorectal cancer. Because the pathogenesis of colorectal carcinoma has not been entirely defined yet and there is no ideal treatment for colon cancer, cancer prevention has become increasingly important in patients with IBD. The two adopted methods to prevent the development of colon cancer in clinical practice include the prophylactic colectomy and colonoscopic surveillance. But patients and physicians seldom accept colectomy as a routine preventive method and most patients do not undergo appropriate colonoscopic surveillance. Chemoprevention refers to the use of natural or synthetic chemical agents to reverse, suppress, or to delay the process of carcinogenesis. Chemoprevention is a particularly useful method in the management of patients at high risk for the development of specific cancers based on inborn genetic susceptibility, the presence of cancer-associated disease, or other known risk factors. Prevention of colorectal cancer by administration of chemopreventive agents is one of the most promising options for IBD patients who are at increased risks of the disease. The chemopreventive efficacy of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) against intestinal tumors has been well established. But with reports that NSAIDs aggravated the symptoms of colitis, their sustained use for the purpose of cancer chemoprevention has been relatively contraindicated in IBD patients. Another hopeful candidate chemoprevention drug for IBD patients is 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA), which is well tolerated by most patients and has limited systemic adverse effects, and no gastrointestinal toxicity. 5-ASA lacks the well-known side effects of long-term NSAIDs use. Retrospective correlative studies have suggested that the long-term use of 5-ASA in IBD patients may significantly reduce the risk of development of colorectal cancer. According to the literature, this agent might well satisfy clinical expectations with respect to a safe and effective chemopreventive agent.