New study shows aspirin can help in cancer treatment
MORE evidence has emerged to show that daily use of aspirin can help prevent cancer.
A new study by the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that daily use of the drug is linked with a reduced risk of death from cancer.
Commenting on the study, Sir John Burn, a professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University, said: “This is another brick in the wall of the evidence that has been accumulating since 1988. There is a general feeling that we are marching steadily towards accepting that a bit of aspirin is a good thing.”
It is still not known how big an impact aspirin use can have on cancer prevention, something which would help doctors balance the risk-benefit trade off of using the drug.
While aspirin has been shown to reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes as well as cancer, there are potentially serious side-effects, with one in every thousand patients suffering severe stomach bleeding.
The new study reported a 16 per cent reduction in cancer mortality for daily aspirin users, compared to an estimated 37 per cent found by a recent review of several randomised trials.
Work in the UK by Prof Burn, which was published in the medical journal Lancet last year, noted 60 per cent fewer cancers in aspirin-taking patients with a family history of the disease.
For the new study, American Cancer Society researchers, led by Dr Eric Jacobs, analysed information from more than 100,000 predominantly elderly participants who reported aspirin use on questionnaires, did not have cancer at the start of the study, and were followed for up to 11 years.
Dr Jacobs said: “Although recent evidence about aspirin use and cancer is encouraging, it is still premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer. Even low-dose aspirin can substantially increase the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding. Decisions about aspirin use should be made by balancing the risks against the benefits in the context of each individual’s medical history.”
Dr Jacobs and his team found the most beneficial effects were observed for stomach and bowel cancers.
Aspirin is thought to both reduce the incidence of cancer and increase survival rates. Long-term of use of aspirin cuts the risk of developing cancer. Also, for patients who start taking aspirin after a cancer diagnosis, treatment is more likely to be successful with less risk of the cancer spreading.
Aspirin is a synthetic version of the active component of willow bark, salicylic acid, which has been used as a medicine for hundreds of years. In plants, salicylates cause diseased cells to kill themselves.
One theory is that the salicylates act in the same way in humans, killing abnormal cancer cells.
Scientists are not sure what is the best dose of aspirin to take. Prof Burns and Professor Malcolm Dunlop from Edinburgh University are leading a clinical trial to answer that question
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