Saturday, March 31, 2012

Aspirin and Cancer

The evidence continues to accumulate that daily doses of aspirin reduce the risks of developing certain cancers. The most recent report is a summary of 34 previous studies (with a combined total of nearly 70,000 participants) in which aspirin was recommended for the prevention of deaths from vascular disease. When the authors of the report re-examined the data from the previous studies for cancer deaths, they found that a daily dose of aspirin for just three years reduced risk of dying of cancer by 24%, compared to study participants not taking aspirin. And by five years the reduction in cancer deaths was 37%. The greatest reductions in deaths were from esophageal and colorectal cancers.

The results were so striking that it’s tempting to argue that everyone should be taking aspirin for the prevention of cancer. The problem for doctors and their patients is that aspirin has some negative side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding and an increased risk of hemorrhagic strokes. Doctors are still reluctant to recommend that everyone should be taking low-dose aspirin specifically for cancer prevention. However the new findings may cause a shift in thinking about the usefulness of aspirin in persons with a past history of certain cancers or with a family history of cancer.

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