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Promising results for aspirin in fight against cancer

Wednesday March 21st, 2012

Three new studies published today (March 21) support a role for aspirin in the prevention of cancer.

The pill may reduce cancer risk - but may also help stop the disease spreading researchers reported.

Campaigners said it was now time for formal advice to be issued on when to recommend aspirin to deal with cancer risk.

In the first study, Professor Peter Rothwell of Oxford University, UK, and colleagues looked at the short term effect of daily aspirin on cancer risk by analysing 51 previous trials.

This showed that aspirin reduced cancer deaths by 15 per cent, and by up to 37 per cent from five years onwards. The authors write in The Lancet: "Alongside the previously reported reduction by aspirin of the long term risk of cancer death, the short term reductions in cancer incidence and mortality add to the case for daily aspirin in prevention of cancer.

"Prevention of cancer could become the main justification for aspirin use," they add.

The same team also examined the effect of aspirin on the spread of cancer. They took figures from five large trials of daily aspirin and found that after about 6.5 years, aspirin seemed to reduce the risk of metastasis by 36 per cent, and lowered the risk of other cancers beginning.

Aspirin reduced the rate of death due to cancer in patients with certain types of cancer. It was equally effective for older and younger, male and female patients.

The team say: "These findings provide the first proof in man that aspirin prevents distant cancer metastasis. Previous animal studies had shown that platelets play a part in metastasis of cancer via the bloodstream to distant tissues, and that such metastasis might be prevented by aspirin."

Lastly, in The Lancet Oncology, the team describe their systematic review of studies on aspirin and metastases. Both observational studies and randomised trials showed similar drops in risk for most types of cancer.

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician of Cancer Research UK, said:  "This is an exciting development. This latest research adds to the evidence that taking a daily dose of aspirin for several years is one of the things that can help to lower the risk of oesophageal, bowel, stomach and lung cancers. 

"This adds to the other established ways of reducing cancer risk – not smoking, keeping a healthy bodyweight and cutting down on alcohol.  It's a good idea for people thinking of taking aspirin to discuss it with their GP, as it can sometimes have side effects such as internal bleeding especially in people over 70."

He added: "Following publication of these studies we now need some definitive advice from the Government as to whether aspirin should be recommended more widely."

Short-term effects of daily aspirin on cancer incidence, mortality, and non-vascular death: analysis of the time course of risks and benefits in 51 randomised controlled trials. Rothwell, P. M. et al. The Lancet March 21 2012 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61720-0

Effect of daily aspirin on risk of cancer metastasis: a study of incident cancers during randomised controlled trials. Rothwell, P. M. et al. The Lancet March 21 2012 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60209-8

Effects of regular aspirin on long-term cancer incidence and metastasis: a systematic comparison of evidence from observational studies versus randomised trials. Algra, A. M. and Rothwell, P. M. The Lancet March 21 2012 doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(12)70112-2

Tags: Cancer | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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