Cancer Health Treatment
Aspirin Could Reduce The Risk of Certain Cancers, Study Shows11:19:00 AM
A small daily dose may prevent colon and gastrointestinal tumors. Aspirin has long been prescribed for heart health. "People ...
A small daily dose may prevent colon and gastrointestinal tumors.
Aspirin has long been prescribed for heart health. "People who have had a heart attack or stroke are usually prescribed aspirin unless there is a good reason not to, such as a recent history of stomach ulcers," says Eric Jacobs, PhD, the American Cancer Society's strategic director for pharmacoepidemiology.
But now a study published March 3 in the journal JAMA Oncology finds that taking low-dose aspirin on a daily basis may lower the overall risk of cancer by three percent. Researchers saw the largest reductions in the risk for colon and gastrointestinal tumors.
Aspirin, however, was not associated with a lower risk for other major cancers, such as breast, prostate or lung cancer, according to the study.
"There is scientific evidence that aspirin has an effect on certain biological pathways that can result in cancer," said senior researcher Andrew Chan, MD, of Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. It also reduces inflammation and the amount of some cancer-causing proteins.
While the benefit was only seen after six years of popping the OTC pill, study authors are optimistic: "Cancers don't typically develop overnight. They take years to develop, so you would have to take aspirin for a long time to prevent cancer," said Dr. Chan.
Dr. Chan also cautioned that this study shows only that taking aspirin is associated with a reduction in the risk of cancer, not that it prevents the disease. "The evidence has reached the point that it may be useful to consider using aspirin to prevent colon cancer," he said. "But we are still not at a point where the general population should take aspirin for cancer prevention."
Ernest Hawk, MD, vice president of the division of cancer prevention and population sciences at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and co-author of an editorial that accompanied the research, said the study suggests "reductions in gastrointestinal and colon cancers among people who take aspirin for other reasons, such as reducing the risk of heart attacks or treating arthritis and relieving pain."
ACS's Jacobs adds: Aspirin is not a substitute for getting screened for colon cancer. "All Americans 50 or older should talk to their doctor about getting tested for colon cancer so that polyps can be detected and removed before they get a chance to develop into cancer."
Bottom line: Taking aspirin regularly might prevent 17 percent of colon cancers among those who are not screened with colonoscopy and 8.5 percent of colon cancers among those who are, according to research.What does this mean for you and me? Jacobs advises people to talk to their physician first. The doctor will be able to take into account the patient's risk for heart disease, as well as reasons why regular aspirin use might not be right for them.