Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Aspirin can do many things: relieve pain, reduce fever, prevent heart attack and stroke and now, a growing amount of research is also showing that this drug could be important to the war on cancer.
Researchers for the American Cancer Society looked at more than 100,000 older adults taking aspirin for heart disease prevention. They found taking a daily aspirin was linked to a 16 percent lower risk of cancer death.
“Cancers of the digestive tract have shown lower risk all along, and there was about a 40 percent reduction in death rates from those cancers,” says Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society. “There was about an 8 percent reduction in death rates from cancer outside the digestive tract.”
Certain blood cells secrete substances that make cells grow — this includes cancer cells. Aspirin may work against cancer by interfering with these substances and shutting down the cell growth process.
Of course, nothing is risk free, including the simple, inexpensive, non-prescription aspirin. Bleeding in the brain and digestive tract are known risks.
“Someone who has a family history of cancer, but say no other medical problems, no other risks for bleeding, then I think aspirin may be a fairly reasonable thing to go on,” says St. Clair Hospital cancer specialist Dr. Vincent Reyes, Jr.
But he is waiting for additional studies to show increased survival, definite cancer prevention, and minimal risk with aspirin.
“If they show that, and reproducible data as well, then I think you have a slam dunk for data, and you can say that people should go on aspirin. Until that happens, the name of the game is always side effects and benefits,” he says.
Two British studies earlier this year showed that daily aspirin for at least three years reduced the risk of developing cancer and also cut the risk of common types of cancer, such as colon, lung, and prostate, nearly in half.