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Does Aspirin Prevent Cancer?

As we look to pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs to fight a variety of life threatening diseases, including cancer, we may be overlooking the powerful affects of a very old drug. The simple and unglamorous aspirin which has been on the market for over a hundred years, is now believed by researchers to reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The active ingredient in aspirin may date back to the time of Hippocrates.  Plants and herbs were common components of early medicine. There are historical references to the willow tree as a source for a pain relief treatment. In the early 1800’s, scientists discovered that the bark and sap of willow trees was heavily comprised of salicylic acid and that it was the salicylic acid that rendered pain relief.

In 1853 a French chemist, Frederic Gerhardt, experimented with buffering combinations to reduce the stomach discomforts from pure salicylic acid. He ended up creating acetylsalicylic acid but did nothing to market it. In 1899, a German chemist who worked for Bayer, rediscovered Gerhardt’s formulas and convinced Bayer to bring the new drug, Aspirin to market.

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).  It functions as an analgesic (pain reliever), antipyretic (fever reducer), and an anti-inflammatory (inflammation reducer). Aspirin also acts as an antithrombotic and inhibits blockages in the circulatory system. It also has an anti-platelet effect which reduces blood clotting.  Aspirin is routinely recommended as a daily supplement to reduce heart and stroke risk.

Now researchers believe that aspirin is more of a wonder drug than we thought.  As researchers looked back and analyzed over 20 years of studies evaluating aspirin’s impact on heart and stroke, a  very revealing statistical result emerged.  Study subjects who were on aspirin therapy had dramatically and measurably lower incidents of cancer related death vs. placebo subjects.  The reasoning is that inflammation is a factor in cancer progression. Aspirin’s ability to reduce inflammation triggering enzymes appears to hinder cancerous growth.

Aspirin may be a valid element to add to an overall cancer prevention regimen. However, it is important to note that there are side effects that may overshadow aspirin’s potential benefits.  Aspirin is not recommended for children, since it can trigger life threatening side effects. For adults there are certain medical conditions that when combined with aspirin could result in dangerous side effects. Aspirin can also interfere with or be dangerous to combine with certain medications. Consult with a trusted medical advisor before starting an aspirin regime.

Marcus Hondro reported on a UK study for Suite101.com:

Of those in the trial who took daily low dose acetylsalicylic acid during the time in which they were taking it there was a 21 percent less chance of dieing from cancer than those who took only a placebo……..Even after coming off the low-dose acetylsalicylic acid it was found that the group who had taken it continued have a significantly lower risk from death due to cancer. The statistics continue up to 20 years and at that time the group who’d taken the acetylsalicylic acid continued to have a 20 percent less chance of dieing from cancer.

Read the full report here.

 

JOHN GEVER and ENESHA COBB, M.D. of ABC News Medical Unit in Collaboration with MedPage Today  reported:

Eric Jacobs, a cancer society official, in a statement. “It will take time for expert guidelines committees to carefully consider these new results together with the existing evidence and consider for whom the benefits of aspirin use are likely to outweigh the risks.”

Still, Jacobs called the study “a major contribution and provides important new evidence from randomized trials in humans that long-term daily aspirin use may lower mortality from certain cancers in addition to colorectal cancer.”

Meanwhile, several physicians contacted by MedPage Today and ABC News said daily aspirin could be considered for at least some patients as a preventative measure for cancer.

Read the full report here.
 

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