Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a salicylic drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. Salicylic acid, the main metabolite of aspirin, is an integral part of human and animal metabolism. While much of it is attributable to diet, a substantial part is synthesized endogenously. Low dose of daily aspirin can also reduce risk of cancer by 21% over five years. Yet another study substantiates the data that aspirin can help reduce risk of cancer.
Aspirin also has an anti platelet effect by inhibiting the production of thromboxane, which under normal circumstances binds platelet molecules together to create a patch over damaged walls of blood vessels. Because the platelet patch can become too large and also block blood flow, locally and downstream, aspirin is also used long-term, at low doses, to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clot formation in people at high risk of developing blood clots. It has also been established that low doses of aspirin may be given immediately after a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack or of the death of cardiac tissue.
Approximately 5-10% of all cancers are hereditary, which means that changes (or mutations) in specific genes are passed from one blood relative to another. Individuals who inherit one of these gene changes will have a higher likelihood of developing cancer within their lifetime. Currently, there is an understanding about mutations in several genes that increase the risk for developing several types of cancer. However, genetic causes for all types of cancer could not be identified so far.
Aspirin has a major preventative effect on hereditary cancer
Professor Sir John Burn, scientist from the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds England, and his team were conducting the study of aspirin’s preventive benefits against heart attack and stroke found that participants had a much lower risk of developing cancer. The researchers explained that over the last two decades there has been growing evidence of a cancer-protecting quality in aspirin....
However, this is the first proper randomized controlled study to look at aspirin’s effect on cancer risk.
The study tracked nearly 1,000 patients from 43 centers in 16 different countries. Some of them were followed for over ten years. The trial concentrated on individuals with Lynch syndrome, a rare inherited condition that raises the person’s risk of developing colon cancer, as well as other cancers, such as cancer of the skin, brain, upper urinary tract, uterus, hepatobiliary tract, small intestine, stomach, ovary, and endometrium. The higher risk of cancer is caused by inherited mutations that undermine DNA mismatch repair. Approximately half of all people with Lynch syndrome develop cancer, usually of the womb or bowel.
Out of these patients, 861 took either two aspirins (600mg) daily for two years or a placebo between 1999 and 2005. By 2007 there was no difference in cancer risk between the two groups. However, the researchers continued monitoring the patients. By 2010, they detected 34 new cases of colorectal cancer in the placebo group, compared to 19 in the aspirin group. Cancer incidence had more than halved in the aspirin group.
The investigating team, which includes people from various countries, say they are planning a large-scale follow-up study, hopefully with at least 3,000 people from around the world. The aim is to try out different aspirin dosages. Two aspirins per day will be compared to smaller amounts.
The research is promising and the advantage is that it offers relatively easy solution to reduce risk of cancer in genetically prone people. Hopefully, the follow up study produced favorable results and people at risk of cancer can benefit from aspirin.