Aspirin sharply reduces cancer risk: study

A small, daily dose of aspirin significantly diminishes the risk of death from a wide range of cancers, according to a landmark study released Tuesday.

Earlier work by the same team of scientists showed that the century-old remedy for aches and pains, long a staple of family pharmacies, can help ward off colon cancer.

The new study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, reveals for the first time that aspirin also helps protect against prostate, lung, brain, and throat cancers, among others.

"These findings provide the first proof in man that aspirin reduces deaths due to several common cancers," said Peter Rothwell, a professor at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study.

Rothwell and colleagues reviewed eight previous clinical trials involving a total of more than 25,500 patients. In each, some subjects took aspirin and others look-alike placebos.

None of the studies were originally designed to measure the impact of the drug on the incidence of cancer.

During the trials, which lasted four-to-eight years, doses of aspirin as low as 75 milligrams - a fraction the normal dose for a headache - cut cancer deaths overall by 21 percent.

Risk was especially reduced after five years of treatment with the drug, by 30 to 40 percent depending on the type of cancer.

Three of the eight trials ran long enough to examine the impact of aspirin over a period of two decades.

The 20-year risk dropped on average by a fifth: 10 percent for prostate cancer, 30 percent for lung cancer, 40 percent for colon cancer, and 60 percent for oesophageal cancer.

For cancer of the lung and throat, the protective effect was confined to adenocarcinomas, the type typically seen in non-smokers.

"Perhaps the most important finding for the longer term is the proof of principle that cancers can be prevented by simple compounds like aspirin, and that 'chemo-prevention' is therefore a realistic goal," Rothwell said.

The length of time before the benefits of taking aspirin kicked in also varied: five years for throat, pancreatic, brain and lung cancer, about 10 years for stomach and colorectal cancer, and 15 years for prostate cancer.

The reductions in stomach and brain cancers, however, were more difficult to quantify because of the smaller number of deaths recorded.

"These promising results build on a large body of evidence suggesting that aspirin could reduce the risk of developing or dying from many different types of cancer," said Ed Yong of Cancer Research UK in commenting on the study.

"This tells us that even small doses reduce the risk of dying from cancer provided it is taken for at least five years."

Many doctors recommend regular use of aspirin to lower the risk of heart attack, clot-related strokes and other blood flow problems.

But daily use of the drug, available without prescription, may cause stomach problems, including stomach bleeding. Alcohol use can aggravate these syptoms.

"We encourage anyone interested in taking aspirin on a regular basis to talk to their doctor first," Yong said.

Aspirin is believed to have a preventive effect because it inhibits an enzyme called COX-2, which promotes cell proliferation in cancer tumours.

In rich nations, the lifetime risk of developing cancer is about 40 percent, with rates in the developing world increasing.

mh/bm

 

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

    Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

    salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower