An aspirin a day may keep cancer away, according to a new study out of London. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently conducted research focused on reducing heart attack risk through use of aspirin and discovered that a daily low dose of aspirin (75 mg) can reduce the occurrence of several common cancers as well.
The study, carried out by professor Peter Rothwell at the University of Oxford, used individual patient data from many randomized trials of daily aspirin use versus no aspirin use with a trial treatment schedule lasting four years or longer. The study also examined death certificates of those trial participants who were believed to have died of cancer.
Another trial, carried out by Professor Tom Meade, a retired professor of epidemiology in LSHTM’s Department of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology, studied the effects of low-dose aspirin as a prevention of ischemic heart disease in men.
“They found that overall the risk of death from cancer was reduced 21 percent in patients who took daily aspirin compared to those who did not,” Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society, told AOL Health Tuesday.
Scientists also examined records for cancer patients with a 20-year follow up and found that the group on aspirin had 20 percent fewer cancer deaths overall. They also had 35 percent fewer deaths from gastrointestinal cancers; however, there was no decrease in blood cancers such as lymphoma or leukemia.
Decreases in deaths from esophagus and pancreas cancers were seen after five years while decreases in deaths from stomach and colorectal cancer did not show until after 10 years of aspirin use. Researches also reported that the risk of dying from cancer was decreased by 7.08 percent at age 65 and older.
Does this mean that we should all start taking aspirin daily?
Not necessarily. In fact, according to Dr. Randall Harris, a researcher at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, patients have seen results while taking only a couple tablets of aspirin a week.
“More is not better with these drugs,” Harris told AOL Health. “They do have side effects.” An overdose of aspirin can result in GI irritation, bleeding and ulcers as well as bleeding in the brain.”
Harris is still excited about the possibilities, however. He notes that we all have an enzyme in our bodies called COX-2, a gene that encodes the enzyme that initiates inflammation in the body. “In the absence of inflammation, the gene is turned off,” explains Harris. “The gene is triggered by inflammatory factors. The COX-2 gene is over expressed in many forms of cancer. Blockade of COX-2 by nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin has been found to reduce cancer risk.”
But that doesn’t mean doctors are advocating that the general population start popping an aspirin a day. “I don’t think that this can be turned into a recommendation for everyone to start taking aspirin,” Lichtenfeld cautions, advising patients to talk to their doctors before beginning a daily aspirin regimen.