Aspirin May Help to Prevent Cancer

A new study has shown that taking aspirin daily may help to prevent cancer. A dose of aspirin between 75 mg and 325 mg per day for at least five years is beneficial in reducing the risk for developing cancer and longer use of aspirin may have even greater benefits. The benefits of taking aspirin were shown to outweigh the potential complications of bleeding with aspirin use, at least statistically in the population studied.

The study was carried out by an international team of scientists and the study report was published in the Annals of Oncology. Jack Cuzick from Queen Mary University in London led the research team. The data that were analyzed in the study were collected from about 200 previous publications that reported results on cancer incidence, mortality attributed to cancer and cardiovascular events as well as the harmful effects of taking aspirin such as peptic ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.

The results showed that it did not matter whether someone took a low dose aspirin every day (“baby aspirin”) of 75 mg or the higher, standard adult dose of 345 mg. The lowered risk for cancer was not apparent until someone took aspirin daily for three years and the most favorable benefit was found after five years of daily use of aspirin.

Statistically, for people aged 50 years old to 65 years old, there was a relative reduction in overall risk for cancer, stroke or myocardial infarction of seven percent for women and nine percent for men over a 15 year time period. The analysis also showed that there was an overall four percent relative reduction in all mortality over a 20 year time period. The analysis also showed there was exceptional reduction in stomach, intestinal and oesophageal cancers with daily use of aspirin and the prevalence of these types of cancers were reduced by between 30 percent and 40 percent. Deaths due to these types of cancers were reduced by 35 percent to 50 percent.

The mechanism for aspirin reducing the risk for cancer, as well as cardiovascular events, is not known. However, aspirin is known to reduce inflammation and inflammation is increasingly being shown to be a factor in the development of many diseases. Therefore, it is thought that the daily dose of aspirin likely is beneficial because it can assist with combating inflammation.

The implication of the study is that, keeping in mind the serious side effects that could occur in some people, all healthy people who are 50 years old or older should consider taking a daily dose of aspirin to lower risk for cancer and cardiovascular disorders. The lower dose of 75 mg seems to produce the desired effects as well as the higher dose and use of the lower dose is recommended. Losing weight and quitting smoking are certainly recommended as modifications of behaviors that will lower one’s risk for developing cancer and cardiovascular disorders but adding the aspirin pill once a day will help as well. Taking a pill once a day is not as difficult as quitting smoking and so it is more likely that the aspirin regimen is something people will actually comply with. Further studies will likely be carried out in the near future to determine the optimal dose of aspirin and optimal length of time someone should take a daily aspirin to help to prevent cancer.

By Margaret Lutze

Annals of Oncology
BBC News

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