Millions are already taking aspirin to relieve pain, lower fevers or reduce heart attack risk, but a new study found the popular drug could have another benefit: cancer prevention.
While previous research has already shown that taking aspirin could reduce a person's cancer risk, the study led by researchers at Queen Mary University of London quantified just how much of a benefit the drug could have on different types of cancers and other factors as well.
According to a news release from the university, the review, which is considered to have taken into account "all the available evidence from many studies and clinical trials," found those taking aspirin for 10 years saw a 35 percent reduction in colorectal cancer rates and a 40 percent reduction deaths from this disease. Rates for esophageal and stomach cancers also were reduced by 30 percent and deaths by 35 to 50 percent in those who regularly took the drug.
The American Cancer Society also cites other research that says aspirin could reduce rates of ovarian, prostate, breast and some skin cancers.
“It has long been known that aspirin — one of the cheapest and most common drugs on the market — can protect against certain types of cancer," university professor Jack Cuzick, who led the study, said in a statement. "But until our study, where we analyzed all the available evidence, it was unclear whether the pros of taking aspirin outweighed the cons."
The review found that patients between 50 and 65 years old only saw such benefits if they were taking a daily dose for at least five years. There is, however, risks like stomach bleeding that go along with taking the drug for such a long period of time, the study authors reminded.
"Whilst there are some serious side effects that can’t be ignored, taking aspirin daily looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and will probably be much easier to implement," Cuzick said.
The study identified some questions that have yet to be answered. Among them are what dosage of aspirin has the maximum benefit and is there any benefit to taking the drug for more than 10 years?
Overall, Dr. Eric Jacobs, a researcher for the American Cancer Society, wrote in a Q&A published earlier this year that "neither the American Cancer Society, nor any other health organization, recommends taking aspirin specifically to help prevent cancer" just yet.
He and the authors of this recent study recommend those interested in taking aspirin for cancer prevention talk to their doctor before starting a regimen.
This study was published in the journal Annals of Oncology.
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