50+ health * Healthy living

Daily aspirin cuts cancer risk

Daily aspirin cuts cancer risk Also reduces cancer spread and mortality, study finds

A daily dose of aspirin may help to prevent and even possibly treat cancer, according to new research.

Taking a low dose of aspirin daily for just three years cut the risk of developing cancer by about a quarter, researchers at Oxford University found.

Previous research by the Oxford team showed that a daily low dose of aspirin for 10 years reduces the risk of cancer, particularly bowel cancer. But the inexpensive drug is not suitable for everyone as it can cause internal bleeding of the stomach in some people.

In the first of three studies published by the Oxford team in The Lancet journal, the scientists analysed data from 51 trials, originally carried out to look at the effect of aspirin on the prevention of heart disease.

But they found that taking a low dose of aspirin (75-300mg) each day for three years cut the risk of developing cancer by a about a quarter for both men (23%) and women (25%).

It also reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 15 per cent within five years, but this increased to 37 per cent if the daily dose of aspirin was taken for longer.

A second study found that aspirin also appeared to prevent or slow the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Over an average of six and a half years, a daily dose of aspirin reduced the risk of cancer that had spread to other parts of the body by 36 per cent, and also reduced the risk of spread in patients with cancer by 55 per cent.

The third study found that taking aspirin daily reduced risk of colorectal, oesophageal, gastric, biliary, and breast cancer.

The role of aspirin in hindering the spread of cancer may be linked to its effect on blood platelets, the researchers suggested. Several animal studies have implicated the blood cells in the spread of cancer.

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: "This latest research adds to the evidence that taking a daily dose of aspirin for several years is one of the things that can help to lower the risk of oesophageal, bowel, stomach and lung cancers.

This adds to the other established ways of reducing cancer risk – not smoking, keeping a healthy bodyweight and cutting down on alcohol. It's a good idea for people thinking of taking aspirin to discuss it with their GP, as it can sometimes have side effects such as internal bleeding, especially in people over 70.

"The research also suggests that aspirin may help to prevent cancer from spreading in the body, so it could be beneficial for people already diagnosed with cancer.

"However, because of the risk of bleeding, patients should discuss this with their specialist before starting to take aspirin, and be aware of the potential for increased complications before surgery or other treatments such as chemotherapy."

This article was published on Wed 21 March 2012

Image © Arto - Fotolia.com

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