New Studies Show Aspirin Helps Protect Against Cancer
Many doctors recommend that patients take a daily dose of aspirin to reduce their risk for a future heart attack or stroke. Now three new studies suggest taking the cheap powdery pill every day can also reduce a person's risk for cancer, or prevent the disease from getting worse in patients who already have it.
The studies, all led by Professor Peter M. Rothwell, a professor of clinical neurology at the University of Oxford in the U.K. are published in the March 20 issue of The Lancet and The Lancet Oncology.
For , Rothwell and his colleagues reviewed data from 51 earlier trials that primarily looked at the effect daily aspirin use had on heart attack prevention. After reviewing the data, the researchers found people who took aspirin daily had a 15 percent lower risk of dying from cancer, and the risk reduction climbed to 37 percent for people who took aspirin daily for 5 years or more.
Men and women were about 25 percent less likely to develop cancer in the first place if they took aspirin daily for three years or longer.
The examined whether aspirin would stall the spread of cancer, known as metastasis. Researchers looked at five earlier trials in which people took a daily dose of aspirin and found that aspirin-takers had a 36 percent lower chance of having their cancer spread. Specifically, colon cancer patients had a 74 percent lower risk of having their cancer spread to other organs if they took aspirin daily. Aspirin also was tied to a 46 percent lower risk for colon, lung and prostate cancers and an 18 percent lower risk for bladder and kidney cancer.
"These findings provide the first proof in man that aspirin prevents distant cancer metastasis," the authors wrote. "That aspirin prevents metastasis at least partly accounts for the reduced cancer mortality recently reported in trials of aspirin."
Thealso looked at if aspirin could impact cancer's spread, but this time researchers reviewed observational case studies, because those results can often be gleaned quickly, rather than waiting 10-20 years for follow-ups from a randomized clinical trial. This study too found a reduced risk for developing colon cancer - about 38 percent lower - and found similar matches in risk for esophageal, stomach and breast cancer.
These new studies are not the only ones to find aspirin's protective benefit against cancer. showed taking aspirin as little as once a month curbed their pancreatic cancer risk, while found people genetically predisposed to colon cancer cut their risk through daily aspirin.
But aspirin does carry risks for some people, including a greater likelihood of suffering internal bleeding in the stomach and brain for some . People with any bleeding disorders or history of ulcers, asthma, or heart failure face this risk, according to the .