Can Aspirin protect against Cancer?

Researchers have already noticed that high dose aspirin is associated with a reduced long term incidence of colorectal cancer. But administration of high dose of aspirin has its own side effects which can severely limit its actions. However, in three new studies, researchers claim that even low doses of aspirin can reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer without increasing your chances of suffering from side effects.

The studies, which have been published in the journal The Lancet, were led by Professor Peter Rothwell from the Oxford University in the UK. The studies were conducted to analyze the effects of aspirin on the rate of colorectal cancer and the mortality associated with it. The researchers varied the dose of aspirin, the duration for which it was administered and its effect on the tumors at various sites. They found that aspirin reduced the rate of colon cancer but had little effect on the incidence of rectal cancer. In another study, aspirin was found useful in preventing cancer of proximal colon compared to cancer of distal colon. However, with increased duration of treatment, aspirin was effective in preventing cancers of distal colon and rectum as well. Another important aspect of the study was that the researchers found that there was no added benefit in increasing the dose of aspirin beyond 75 mg/day.

The researchers have concluded that taking 75 mg of aspirin everyday by people in their middle age can cut the risk of developing several types of cancers. Moreover, the beneficial effect of aspirin on cancer is seen within 2 to 3 years of starting the treatment, rather than a period of ten years, as was previously thought. They have also opined that daily aspirin prevents the spread of a localized tumor to other body parts.

However, critics of the study have pointed out that one cannot ignore an important side effect of long term aspirin therapy- the increased risk of internal bleeding. The studies published in The Lancet took into account data from small trials. Studies have to be undertaken, focusing on the results of large randomized trials, before one can advocate the benefits of daily aspirin therapy. Until then, it must be limited to people who belong to the high risk group.

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Date: 
Monday, April 2, 2012
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