A daily aspirin may help prevent cancer, according to American Cancer Society researchers.
A large new study, published online this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, offers more evidence of a positive association between taking an aspirin and modestly lower cancer mortality. Still, questions remain about the size of the health benefit, the authors of the study say. No one should start an aspirin regimen without consulting a doctor first because even low dose aspirin does cause stomach bleeding in some patients.
American Cancer Society researchers analyzed health information from more than 100,000 predominantly elderly participants who reported taking a daily aspirin and did not have cancer at the start of the study. The researchers tracked the study participants for up to 11 years.
They found daily aspirin use was associated with a 16 percent lower overall risk of dying of cancer, among people who reported taking aspirin daily for at least five years and among those who reported shorter-term daily use.
The reduction in cancer mortality reported in the current study is notably smaller than the 37 percent reduction suggested in a recent pooled analysis of 51 randomized trials published in The Lancet, a British medical journal. But the large size of the current study is a strength in determining how much daily aspirin use might lower cancer mortality.
“Although recent evidence about aspirin use and cancer is encouraging, it is still premature to recommend that people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer,” American Cancer Society researcher Eric J. Jacobs, Ph.D., who led the study, said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Earlier this year, researchers at The City College of New York reported in the ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters that they had developed a new aspirin compound that curbed the growth of 11 different types of human cancer cells in the laboratory. Some of the cancers controlled included pancreatic cancer, lung cancer and leukemia. Lung cancer and mesothelioma are cancers caused by inhaling asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of the chest cavity and abdominal cavity.
In the United States, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The disease is incurable, though there are standard treatments to manage the disease including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are older workers, retired workers or veterans who were exposed to asbestos fibers in the workplace or military service. Microscopic asbestos fibers when inhaled can lodge in the lungs and remain there a lifetime causing inflammation that eventually leads to asbestos related disease.
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