A long-term study from Harvard Medical School suggests that a low-dose aspirin can reduce the risk of death from cancer. The study was recently presented at the 2017 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting. Previous studies showed that the over-the-counter drug prevented cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. The study was researched using various doses, duration, and risks from cancer for over three decades.
Low-dose aspirin is regularly 81 milligrams and is usually given to infants and children. For adults suffering from coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, low-dose aspirin is recommended as a preventative drug. Aspirin should not be taken by those who are allergic to ibuprofen or naproxen. The risks associated with taking aspirin include stomach bleeding, and for those with kidney disease, it can prevent the kidneys from excreting uric acid.
Yin Cao, the lead author and instructor in the Medicine, Clinical, and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School said the data suggested that aspirin “reduces the risk of developing cancer” but can also reduce “death from cancer,” according to The Washington Post. The study researched data from nearly 90,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and nearly 50,000 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Baseline aspirin use was recorded by researchers and then followed up on every two years. According to the AACR Annual Meeting press release, the researchers excluded individuals with a “history of cancer, heart disease, or stroke.”
Dosages of aspirin ranged from half a standard tablet per week to seven tablets per week. Overall mortality risks and mortality risks from cancer were reduced. The higher frequency of the aspirin, the more risk reduction occurred in cancer mortality. But, anything greater than the seven tables had “substantially fewer benefits,” suggesting the “dose response was not linear.”
The researchers theorized that an ingredient in the aspirin that was an anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory was behind the reduce in risk. Of the participants in the study, nearly 13,000 died of cancer. The participants’ mortality risk who took aspirin versus those who did not was 11 percent and 7 percent lower.
Colorectal cancer was the largest reduction in mortality with 31 percent. In women, those who took aspirin had an 11 percent “lower risk of dying from breast cancer” while men who took aspirin had a “23 percent lower risk of dying from prostate cancer.” Margie Clapper, the deputy scientific officer at Fox Chase Cancer Center, cautioned people to remember the risk versus the benefit and urged people to talk with their primary care specialist. Taking an aspirin every day “may not be for everyone, that one size does not fit all,” she said. More research is needed into the effects of taking aspirin, both positive and negative. Cao said evidence has been rapidly stacking up that shows aspirin working to reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality.
By Cheryl Werber