Aspirin may help to control cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers have said that women who regularly use aspirin appear to develop fewer cancers than women who do not. A study of 22,507 cancer-free postmenopausal women, conducted by researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US, found that those who claimed to regularly use aspirin had a 16 per cent reduced risk of developing cancer more than a decade later. In addition, the women had a 13 per cent lower risk of dying from cancer over this same time period, compared to women who did not use aspirin, a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). However, the researchers noted that the preventative benefits of aspirin were not seen among active smokers. Speaking at the 2007 American Association of Cancer Research conference, lead study author Dr Aditya Bardia commented: "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." The researchers also studied the impact of a non-aspirin NSAID and found that, unlike aspirin, regular use was not associated with lower cancer incidence or mortality. Senior study author Dr Jon Ebbert expressed surprise at this finding, saying: "While chemically different, these agents share at least one similar mechanism of action so you might have expected them to have comparable effects." In addition, aspirin was found to be associated with a lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease, while NSAIDs were not. The researchers highlighted that the volunteers were only given a single survey of aspirin and non-aspirin NSAID use, but noted study strengths such as the prospective nature of the research, relatively long follow-up on a large number of participants, and the ability to adjust for lifestyle factors. "This study is unique because we were able to evaluate comprehensive endpoints such as total cancer incidence and cancer mortality, which are more clinically relevant outcomes for patients," Dr Bardia said. Dr Alison Ross, Cancer Research UK's cancer information officer, warned that taking drugs such as aspirin over a long period of time can cause serious side-effects, such as bleeding in the digestive system. "People should not start taking aspirin in order to reduce their chances of getting cancer unless advised to by their doctor." "However, this large study adds to growing evidence suggesting that aspirin, one of a group of anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDS, can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer," she continued.