Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Effect of daily aspirin on long-term risk of death due to cancer: analysis of individual patient data from randomised trials

Researchers have found a drug that's unexpectedly effective at reducing one's chances of dying from many common forms of cancer, in some cases lessening fatalities up to 60%. It's a small, long term daily dose of aspirin.

In a new report, stemming from eight long term studies including some 25,000 patients, British researchers found that a small, 75 milligram dose of aspirin taken daily for at least five years reduces risk of dying from common cancers roughly 10 to 60 percent. Here are some of the findings, published today on the website of medical journal The Lancet:

• After 5 years of daily aspirin, death due to gastrointestinal cancers decreased by 54%.
• After 20 years, death due to prostate cancer decreased by 10%
• After 20 years, death due to lung cancer decreased by 30% (among those with adenocarcinomas, typically seen in nonsmokers)
• After 20 years, death due to colorectal cancer decreased by 40%
• After 20 years, death due to esophageal cancer decreased by 60%

The author of the study, Professor Peter Rothwell of the University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital, says that the findings don't necessarily mean you should start a daily aspirin regimen—it can still be responsible for some complications, like bleeding, that have historically kept it from being recommended for daily consumption—though Rothwell suggests the new data could lead people to reevaluate aspirin's risks:

They do demonstrate major new benefits that have not previously been factored into guideline recommendations...previous guidelines have rightly cautioned that in healthy middle-aged people, the small risk of bleeding on aspirin partly offsets the benefit from prevention of strokes and heart attacks...But the reductions in deaths due to several common cancers will now alter this balance for many people.

While the study didn't find any difference in the results between men and women, the age of the patients affected the findings significantly; older patients benefited drastically more from daily aspirin than younger ones, and doctors say that the ideal candidate for a daily dose of aspirin are probably those nearing their 50s. Researchers will continue testing to explore these promising initial results, but in the meantime it's cool to know that we might already have an effective cancer-battling drug on hand in our medicine cabinets

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