Aspirin fights cancer
Studies find an aspirin a day
can keep cancer at bay
Kelland | Reuters Enlarge
LONDON (Reuters) March 21, 2012 - Three new studies published on Wednesday
added to growing scientific evidence suggesting that taking a daily dose
of aspirin can
help prevent, and possibly treat, cancer.
Previous studies have found that daily aspirin reduces the long-term risk
of death due to cancer, but until now the shorter-term effects have been
less certain - as has the medicine's potential in patients already
diagnosed with cancer.
The new studies, led by Peter
Britain's Oxford University, found that aspirin also has a short-term
benefit in preventing cancer, and that it reduces the likelihood that
cancers will spread to other organs by about 40 to 50 percent.
"These findings add to the case for use of aspirin to prevent cancer,
particularly if people are at increased risk," Rothwell said.
"Perhaps more importantly, they also raise the distinct possibility that
aspirin will be effective as an additional treatment for cancer - to
prevent distant spread of the disease."
This was particularly important because it is the process of spread of
cancer, or "metastasis", which most often kills people with the disease,
Aspirin, originally developed by Bayer, is a cheap over-the-counter drug
generally used to combat pain or reduce fever.
The drug reduces the risk of clots forming in blood vessels and can
therefore protect against heart attacks and strokes, so it is often
prescribed for people who already suffer with heart disease and have
already had one or several attacks.
Aspirin also increases the risk of bleeding in the stomach to around one
patient in every thousand per year, a factor which has fuelled an intense
debate about whether doctors should advise patients to take it as
regularly as every day.
Last year, a study by British researchers questioned the wisdom of daily
aspirin for reducing the risk of early death from a heart attack or stroke
because they said the increased risk of internal bleeding outweighed the
Other studies, including some by Rothwell in 2007, 2010 and 2011, found
that an aspirin a day, even at a low dose of around 75 milligrams, reduces
the long-term risk of developing some cancers, particularly bowel and
oesophageal cancer, but the effects don't show until eight to 10 years
after the start of treatment.
Rothwell, whose new studies were published in The Lancet and The Lancet
Oncology journals on Wednesday, said this delay was because aspirin was
preventing the very early development of cancers and there was a long time
lag between this stage and a patient having clinical signs or symptoms of
Rothwell and others said deeper research was now needed into aspirin as a
potential treatment for cancer in patients whose disease has not yet
"No drug has been shown before to prevent distant metastasis and so these
findings should focus future research on this crucial aspect of
treatment," he said.
Peter Johnson, chief clinician at the charity Cancer Research UK, said his
group was already investigating the anti-cancer properties of aspirin.
"These findings show we're on the right track," he said.
In a written commentary on the research in The Lancet, Andrew Chan and
Nancy Cook of Harvard Medical School in the United States said it was
"impressive" and moved health experts "another step closer to broadening
recommendations for aspirin use".
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Susan Fenton)