A recent analysis of 51 studies involving more than 77,000 patients found that aspirin reduces a person's risk of developing cancer and stops existing tumors from spreading. The research, published in “The Lancet,” found the risk of getting cancer was about 25 percent lower among people regularly taking aspirin.
"Aspirin has a big effect on the spread of the cancer, which is important as it's the commonest reason that cancer kills people,” said Oxford University researcher Peter Rothwell, M.D. “We found that after five years of taking aspirin there was a 30 to 40 percent reduction in deaths from cancer."
Dr. Rothwell and colleagues, who carried out the latest work, had already linked aspirin with a lower risk of certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer. But their previous work suggested people needed to take the drug for about 10 years to get any protection. Now they believe the protective effect occurs much sooner — within three to five years.
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A new Asian study of 1,200 women published in the journal “Lung Cancer” found that daily aspirin cuts the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by about 50 percent and in smokers by 62 percent.
Until now, doctors have been reluctant to recommend aspirin for everyone because of increased dangers of internal bleeding in the stomach, intestines, and brain.
But the risks are small and rare, said Dr. Chauncey Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic. As few as 1 in 769 people treated with low-dose aspirin suffer significant bleeding, according to one study.
And Dr. Rothwell and others have suggested the latest research should prompt new guidelines to push wider use of aspirin in healthy adults.
“Improving lifestyle should still be the No. 1 goal,” said Dr. Crandall, author of the “Heart Health Report” newsletter. “Maintaining an ideal body weight, getting enough exercise, reducing stresses, eating whole foods and not smoking — they all improve our lives and help us live longer. But after that, if you are 40 or older, you should also be taking a low-dose aspirin a day or at least every other day.”
Low-dose aspirin contains about 81 mg of aspirin, or about one-quarter of the full-strength version.
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