An aspirin a day might help keep cancer away, according to promising research reported in the medical journal The Lancet.
The new findings about cancer protection come from an analysis of 51 studies involving more than 77,000 patients.
Taking daily low-dose aspirin for three years or more has been found to lower the risk of getting cancer by 24 percent in women and 23 percent in men.
“There is a basic reason for that because there are Cox 2 receptors on tumor cells and aspirin is a Cox 2 inhibitor, so it does make a lot of sense that aspirin would lower the risk of getting a cancer or a recurrence,” explained Dr. Grace Wang, a medical oncologist speciaizing in breast cancer at Baptist Hospital in Miami.
When it comes to breast cancer, a study two years ago found aspirin can lower the risk of recurrence and improve survival. That’s when Wang started talking to her breast cancer patients about the possible benefits of aspirin.
“So for my patients I’ve been suggesting that maybe they could take a baby aspirin maybe three times a week with food. That if it didn’t have a lot of side effects that maybe that would be beneficial,” Wang said.
She believes aspirin would be most helpful for patients who test positive for a breast cancer gene or have a strong family history of the disease.
Phyllis Teitelbaum’s mother and two sisters had breast cancer.
“As someone at high risk for breast cancer and someone who was already taking low-dose aspirin for cardiovascular protection, I’m thrilled that I’m getting a secondary effect from it, that it may in fact reduce my risk for breast cancer,” Teitelbaum said.
For colorectal cancer there was also previous evidence that aspirin can have a protective effect.
The new findings reinforce that and add other gastrointestinal cancers to the list.
“Esophageal cancer, gastric cancer which is cancer of the stomach, cancer of the biliary tract,“ said Dr. Antonio Ucar. He’s a Baptist Health oncologist who specializes in gastrointestinal cancer, and says he will more liberally recommend the use of aspirin now.
However, both doctors point out that daily aspirin therapy is not for everyone..
“If patients have ulcers or if patients have any bleeding disorders or are at risk for bleeding, I think they have to be careful and they need to check it out with their doctor,” advised Wang.
Researchers also found the death rate from cancer was nearly 40 percent lower among study participants who took daily aspirin for more than five years. The spread of cancer to other organs was found to be 36 percent lower.
Published at 6:36 AM EDT on Mar 22, 2012