Study: Unlikely drug reduces risk of five cancers

December 6, 2010 4:51:42 PM PST
A major scientific study announced Monday has found a simple, over-the-counter drug reduced death from five cancers. It was a compilation of eight studies involving 25,000 people, and what they found was, when people took aspirin for five years or longer, they had a 20 percent reduced risk of almost half a dozen cancers.

The Lancet study looked at aspirin and its impact on colon cancer, esophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic and brain cancers.

"Can we say for sure that each one of these cancers is going to be reduced directly by aspirin? This study doesn't exactly say that, but I think we can assume that in general there are some beneficial effects to aspirin," said Dr. Ed Kim with the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Dr. Kim says Houston researchers have already confirmed in studies that aspirin protects against colon cancer and in some cases, lung cancer.

How does it work?

"It affects this inflammation pathway and we know that inflammation can lead to cancer, as well as other medical problems," Dr. Kim said.

The big downside to regular aspirin is stomach upset and GI bleeding. In some rare cases, it can lead to death, so that's why doctors don't recommend everyone take an aspirin. But many physicians say it's a risk worth taking for many people, especially since studies found it can even work from doses as low as 75 milligrams.

"Is this something you would take now based on this info?" we asked Dr. Kim.

"That I would strongly consider," he replied.

Dr. Kim says it's worth each person discussing the aspirin option with their doctor. If there's no GI problems, but a history of cancer or heart disease, doctors say a low dose aspirin might be a good option.


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