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Low Dose Aspirin Found to Cut Risk of Death from Numerous Cancers

Posted Dec 09 2010 6:26am
One of mankind’s oldest remedies, aspirin, which has references dating it’s use to at least the 4 th century BC, has received another endorsement: cancer prevention. 1

A recent study published in the highly respected British journal, The Lancet, indicates that low dose aspirin may play a role in the prevention of a variety of cancers.   These include cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas, intestine, lung, and prostate. 2  

Clinical trials with aspirin as we know it today, acetyl salicylic acid (ASA), which was perfected by Felix Hoffman of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, occurred during 1897—1899 and it has been with us ever since. 1,3

ASA is the synthetic form of a naturally occurring compound, salicin, found in plants and trees, particularly the willow tree.   The famed Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed a potion or tea made from willow leaves to ease labor pains in women of that time. 1,3

We of course know of the use of aspirin for relief of aches, pains and fevers.   Aspirin is the “original NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug)” and has been used to treat arthritis and related conditions for years.   Over the past several decades research has indicated its important role in prevention and acute treatment of heart attacks and certain types of strokes (embolic not hemorrhagic). 1,3

Now this new study shows that daily aspirin regimens of 5 years or more substantially reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.   Researches found that this regimen reduced mortality from various cancers by 10 to 60%, depending upon the type of cancer. 2

These findings occurred in a study of over 25,000 persons, which was initially undertaken to assess the protective effects of aspirin on heart and vascular disease.   Researchers were quick to point out that the public should consult with their physician before embarking on an aspirin regimen, but do concede that the small risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding is likely outweighed by the benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease prevention and now possible cancer prevention. 2,4,5

During the study the overall cancer death rate reduced by 21%.   At the five-year mark in the study, death from GI cancers had reduced 54%. This positive effect however, was not seen until 10 years out.   For prostate cancer the protective effect was 15 years out. 2

The study followed patients for up to 20 years.   Those followed for this length of time showed a reduction in cancer related death of 10% for prostate cancer, 30% for lung cancer (only adenocarcinoma, the kind which NON smokers get), 40% for colorectal cancer and 60% for esophageal cancer. There were only a few deaths in the study group due to pancreatic, stomach and brain cancer, so the potential impact of aspirin on these cancers could not be accurately assessed. 2

As with prevention of heart attack, higher doses of aspirin did not offer greater benefit than long term dosing at the 75mg level.   Age was noted to be a factor with the 20-year risk of cancer death declining most dramatically among older patients in the study. 2,4,5

Again, doctors have cautioned patients not to be overly optimistic about this report, as some feel the claims made by this study are quite dramatic and require further analysis and investigation.   Patients with a history of ulcers or other GI disorders such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, gastric or duodenal ulcers, as well bleeding disorders are strongly advised to seek medical guidance regarding any planned use of aspirin regimens. 6,7

1. What is Aspirin? - http://www.aspirin-foundation.com/what/timeline.html

2. Effect of daily aspirin on long-term risk of death due to cancer: analysis of individual patient data from randomised trials - The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 7 December 2010 - http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2962110-1/fu

3. Aspirin - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspirin

4. Low-Dose Aspirin Cuts Cancer Death Rate by 30%-40% - http://www.acep.org/Content.aspx?id=65150

5. Is aspirin really a magic bullet for cancer? - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/8188126/Is-aspirin-really-a-magic-bullet-for-c

6. Cancer doctors urge caution over taking daily aspirin - http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2010/12/cancer_doctors_urge_caution

7. Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/daily-aspirin-therapy/HB00073

 

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