In a study published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on August 10, 2012, it was reported that there is an association between recent daily aspirin use and modestly lower cancer mortality but that the magnitude of the effect of daily aspirin use (particularly long-term use) is uncertain. A previous study involving a pooled analysis of randomized trials of daily aspirin use for the prevention of vascular events (such as strokes) found a substantial reduction in over-all cancer mortality during follow-up after five years of daily aspirin use.
In this recent study, the researchers analyzed the data from 100,139 male and female participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort who reported no history of cancer on the questionnaires they filled out. The data indicated that 5,138 of the participants died from cancer between 1997 and 2008. The study found that daily aspirin use at baseline was associated with slightly lower cancer mortality when compared with no use of aspirin. The study also found that the association between daily use of aspirin and cancer mortality was slightly stronger in analyses that used updated aspirin use data from periodic follow-up questionnaires that included 3,373 cancer deaths.
The study found that daily use of aspirin was associated with approximately 16% lower over-all risk of cancer mortality for both those who reported daily aspirin use for at least five years and for those who reported a shorter period of daily aspirin use. The over-all mortality rate was approximately 40% lower for gastrointestinal cancers, such as stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, and colorectal cancer, and approximately 12% for other cancers.
The study reported that the reduction in cancer mortality that it found was significantly smaller that the 37% reduction reported in the pooled analysis of randomized trials. While this study’s strength was its large size when compared to the prior study that involved pooled analysis of randomized trials, this study relied on observational study and therefore may underestimate or overestimate the effects of daily aspirin use on cancer mortality if the participants had different underlying fatal cancer risk factors than those who did not take daily aspirin.
One of the study’s authors stated, “Although recent evidence about aspirin use and cancer is encouraging, it is still premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer. Even low-dose aspirin can substantially increase the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding. Decisions about aspirin use should be made by balancing the risks against the benefits in the context of each individual’s medical history. Any decision about daily aspirin use should be made only in consultation with a health care professional.”
As many medical professionals and ordinary people have known for many years, it appears that aspirin may indeed be a miracle drug.
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