Separate studies link daily aspirin use to a reduced risk of cancer

Taking aspirin every day may significantly reduce the risk of many cancers and prevent tumors from spreading, according to two new studies…

The findings add to a body of evidence suggesting that cheap and widely available aspirin may be a powerful if overlooked weapon in the battle against cancer. But the research also poses difficult questions for doctors and public health officials, as regular doses of aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and other side effects. Past studies have suggested that the drawbacks of daily use may outweigh the benefits, particularly in healthy patients.

One of the new studies examined patient data from dozens of large, long-term randomized controlled trials involving tens of thousands of men and women. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that after three years of daily aspirin use, the risk of developing cancer was reduced by almost 25 percent when compared with a control group not taking aspirin. After five years, the risk of dying of cancer was reduced by 37 percent among those taking aspirin.

A second paper that analyzed five large randomized controlled studies in Britain found that over six and a half years on average, daily aspirin use reduced the risk of metastatic cancer by 36 percent and the risk of adenocarcinomas — common solid cancers including colon, lung and prostate cancer — by 46 percent.

Daily aspirin use also reduced the risk of progressing to metastatic disease, particularly in patients with colorectal cancer, the studies reported…

But while some experts called the new findings “provocative” and “encouraging,” mounting evidence about the preventive promise of aspirin puts health providers in a quandary. Aspirin increases the risk of not just of gastrointestinal bleeding, but of hemorrhagic strokes.

The new studies, however, also found that the risk of bleeding in aspirin users diminished over time, and that the risk of death from brain bleeds was actually lower in the aspirin users than in the comparison group…

The randomized clinical trials the Oxford investigators examined were not focused on cancer prevention; they were originally intended to study the effects of aspirin on preventing heart disease…

Though many Americans use baby aspirin daily to reduce their risk of heart disease, patients are generally advised to do so only when their cardiac risk is presumed to outweigh the risks of taking aspirin. Physicians remain extremely reluctant to recommend long-term use of aspirin in a healthy population.

I’m already in that last-named group. Being a cranky geek of the “cranky old geek” variety, my doctors recommended the baby aspirin regimen to me a gazillion years ago. Sorry for the technical term.

One of the critical conclusions of the study is the fact that a large, long-term study to confirm or contradict these studies will probably never be done because it would be very expensive and “aspirin is a cheap generic drug”. Profit supersedes people once again.