Aspirin isn’t just for heart patients anymore. Researchers took a look at all available studies and concluded the daily regimen of aspirin could reduce your odds of developing colon, stomach or esophageal cancer. Not bad for the little low-dose aspirin.
Millions of people are already taking the drug to help treat or prevent heart disease. According to this study, it adds on additional benefits. Lead researcher, Jack Cuzick, commented that the benefits of aspirin far outweigh any potential side effects. Gastrointestinal bleeding is the most serious side effect associated with aspirin.
If a patient takes a daily aspirin for 10 years, it could cut the risk of developing colon cancer by 35 percent. Deaths from colon cancer were cut by 40 percent. Stomach and esophageal cancers were cut by 30 percent, with deaths cut a further 35 to 50 percent.
Before you rush out to grab a crate of aspirin for your lifetime, there are some caveats. There has already been some pushback on the study. Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society said that the study fell short of a blanket aspirin recommendation to prevent cancer. He said the study does give fuel to the idea that a patient should have a discussion with their doctor about a possible aspirin regimen.
The issue is that the study is a review of other studies. Lichtenfeld points out that this is nothing more than circumstantial evidence. “These are not randomized trials, which provide us with the best quality evidence to answer the question. You don’t have a study that compares aspirin with no aspirin.”
The bleeding risk jumps as the patient ages. After age 70, the risk of bleeding jumps substantially. Cuzick recommends that people over the age of 70 do not start taking aspirin for the sole purpose of preventing cancer.
As for the dose you would need to take? That’s still unknown. “The evidence suggests that low-dose aspirin (75 milligrams) is as effective as the standard dose of 300 milligrams, but there has been no direct comparison,” he said. “So people should take the low dose, but research should be done to see if the standard dose is even more effective.”
And before you think that an aspirin daily gets rid of the need for a colonoscopy, think again. Screening is paramount for cancer, and just because you are taking aspirin doesn’t mean you can forego screening tests.
Researchers are still speculating on how aspirin could reduce cancer risk. One theory is it reduces platelets in the blood that cancer needs to travel. Another is it is an anti-inflammatory. This could prevent cells from dividing.
For now, it is all speculation. More studies will be needed to cement the link between the two. Patients already on an aspirin regimen for heart issues should get the added benefit. Those not taking a daily aspirin should consult their doctor first before beginning any new treatment.