Aspirin may cut risk of lung cancer

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Aspirin could reduce the risk of lung cancer, according to a study in New York which suggests that taking regular doses of the painkiller could cut the chances of developing the most common type of lung disease in women by more than half.

Aspirin could reduce the risk of lung cancer, according to a study in New York which suggests that taking regular doses of the painkiller could cut the chances of developing the most common type of lung disease in women by more than half.

Researchers questioned more than 14,000 women about their long-term history of aspirin use and compared 81 women who subsequently went on to develop lung cancer with 808 who did not.

They found by far the biggest risk factor for lung cancer was smoking. But, once that was taken into account, they discovered that those who had taken aspirin regularly were substantially less likely to develop the disease.

For women who had taken aspirin three or more times a week for at least six months, the risk of developing any type of lung cancer was reduced by a third compared with non-users.

The reduction in risk was even clearer for non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about three-quarters of cases in women. Regular aspirin users were less than half as likely to develop that form of lung cancer as non-users.

Dr Arslan Akhmedkhanov, lead author of the research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, said: "Not smoking is by far the best way to avoid lung cancer but our study suggests regular aspirin use could also confer some degree of protection against the disease. We need larger-scale research to confirm the results but it's certainly consistent with other evidence for the health benefits of the drug."

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of Cancer Research UK, which publishes the British Journal of Cancer, added: "As much as these results are encouraging, people shouldn't fool themselves into thinking that taking aspirin somehow counteracts the dangers of smoking.

"Everything else pales into insignificance compared with the lethal effects of tobacco."

Cancer Research UK scientists in Bristol and Nottingham are conducting clinical trials to test whether aspirin can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer among people at increased risk of the disease.

Scientists do not know why aspirin seems to protect against some cancers, but believe the drug's anti-inflammatory effects are responsible.

Another study published in the journal yesterday predicted that lung cancer deaths in the UK will fall during the next five years by 20 per cent for men and 8 per cent in women because more people are giving up smoking.

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