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An Aspirin A Day In Texas May Keep Cancer Away

Aug 17, 2007
Individuals in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere in Texas who take an aspirin a day may lower the odds of colon, prostate and breast cancer if you are at high risk for those malignancies, researchers at the American Cancer Society report.

Men and women who used adult-strength aspirin daily for five or more years had about a 15 percent lower overall rate of developing cancer, particularly colon, prostate and possibly breast cancer, researchers reported. However, they also said that there's not enough evidence that aspirin's value as a cancer preventive outweighs its potential toxic side effects, which include a higher risk for bleeding.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) didn't recommend using aspirin to prevent cancer, because aspirin has been known to cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding. In the study, researchers looked for a link between long-term use of aspirin -- dosed at 325 milligrams or more a day -- and cancer in almost 70,000 men and more than 76,000 women participating in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.

During twelve years of follow-up, more than 18,000 men and women were diagnosed with cancer. The researchers found that the 15 percent relative reduction in overall cancer risk was not statistically significant for women, but it was associated with a 20 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer and a 30 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women, compared with people who didn't take the medicine.

The ACS researchers noted that aspirin had no effect on the risks of lung cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma, leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer. Also, aspirin use for less than five years did not lower the risk for cancer.

If more evidence comes to light suggesting that aspirin curbs cancer risk, the American Cancer Society said that its recommendations might someday change. Future recommendations could take cancer prevention into account when deciding on the best dose for people who already need to take aspirin for cardiovascular protection. But researchers said that they were not there yet.

The Iowa Women's Health Study, published in 2006, found that there may be an association between lung inflammation seen in asthma and increased risk of breast cancer spreading to the lungs. This study looked at more than 22,500 cancer-free postmenopausal women, recruited in 1996. Ten years later, as reported, the researchers found that women who regularly used aspirin were 16 percent less likely to have developed cancer and 13 percent less likely to have died of cancer than women who did not use aspirin.

This same benefit was not seen in women who regularly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) other than aspirin, said another 2007 study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.. This study suggests that reducing inflammation may help prevent cancer and it found that women who regularly used aspirin developed fewer cancers than women who didn't.

And while aspirin helped protect former and non smokers from cancer, this was not reported to be the case for women who were active smokers.

The findings do not mean that women should not take NSAIDs or start taking aspirin on a regular basis, the Mayo Clinic researchers said. "This is just one study. However, it does provide provocative evidence that regular aspirin use may play a role in preventing the most common chronic diseases in western countries, namely cancer and heart disease," Dr. Aditya Bardia, the lead author of the study said in a prepared statement.

It's important to check with your physician before taking over-the-counter medicines, like aspirin, for a condition other than what they are designed for.

How you treat your body when you're young will certainly affect your health as you get older. Eventually, it will also affect your wallet.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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