Aspirin seems to be a miracle drug. New research shows that taking a low dose of the painkiller each day can cut the risk of a range of cancers, and could even treat the disease.
The three studies published in the Lancet, looked at patients who were participating in several long-term, randomized trials on the effect of daily low-dose aspirin (75 mg to 300 mg) for the prevention of heart disease. The researchers discovered that a daily low-dose intake for just three years reduced the risk of cancer by about a quarter. The risk of dying of cancer was cut by 15% – and by 37% for those who remained on aspirin for longer than five years.
In another study, which included five large trials in Britain that followed patients over an average of 6.5 years, aspirin users enjoyed a 36% lower risk of developing metastatic cancer and a 46% reduced risk of being diagnosed with colon, lung or prostate cancer.
A third study looked at findings from observational studies and found that regular use of aspirin reduced the long-term risk of several cancers and prevented the spread – metastasis – of tumors.
Dr Peter Rothwell from Oxford University said the effect of aspirin on metastasis was unique and might be useful in treatment. “Previously, no drug has ever been shown to reduce metastasis as a specific effect,” he said. “It opens up a completely new therapeutic area.”
The drug, which prevents blood clotting, is used by many people each day to guard against heart attacks and strokes. But for those without special risk of heart and artery disease regular intake is often discouraged by experts, because of the increased likelihood of internal bleeding. However, according to Rothwell it is time to think again.
“It’s certainly time to add prevention of cancer into the analysis of the balance of risk and benefits of aspirin. So far, all the guidelines have just been based on the prevention of strokes and heart attacks. This research really shows that the cancer benefit is as large, if not larger, than the benefit in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes. It does change the equation quite drastically.”
Photo: theinvisiblewombat / Flickr
Rothwell, P., Price, J., Fowkes, F., Zanchetti, A., Roncaglioni, M., Tognoni, G., Lee, R., Belch, J., Wilson, M., Mehta, Z., & Meade, T. (2012). Short-term effects of daily aspirin on cancer incidence, mortality, and non-vascular death: analysis of the time course of risks and benefits in 51 randomised controlled trials The Lancet DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61720-0
Rothwell, P., Wilson, M., Price, J., Belch, J., Meade, T., & Mehta, Z. (2012). Effect of daily aspirin on risk of cancer metastasis: a study of incident cancers during randomised controlled trials The Lancet DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60209-8
Algra, A., & Rothwell, P. (2012). Effects of regular aspirin on long-term cancer incidence and metastasis: a systematic comparison of evidence from observational studies versus randomised trials The Lancet Oncology DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(12)70112-2