Researchers also found it reduced the risk of diagnosing a cancer that had already spread by 31 percent. For those who continued to take aspirin after a cancer diagnosis, the risk of metastasis was cut significantly by nearly 70 percent, the researchers calculated.
Overall, these studies revealed a 38 percent reduction in colon cancer, which matched well with the risk reduction seen in clinical trials, they said. There were similar findings for esophageal, gastric, biliary and breast cancer, researchers observed.
While the study is attention-getting, not every expert is on board--and they offer their opinions. Unfortunately they say the research is not conclusive, and did not ultimately prove that aspirin combats cancer. So, you should probably not start popping aspirin in the hopes of thwarting cancer.
Among those experts is Nancy R. Cook, an associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial. She pointed out that these studies only dealt with trials where aspirin was given daily, whereas two large trials in which aspirin was given every other day, found no connection with cancer prevention.
"Aspirin seems to work for people who have had cardiovascular disease. Perhaps in the long-term it will turn out to be protective for cancer, but we need to verify that and get more information," Cook said.
And, aspirin is not benign, Cook said, pointing out risks for bleeding and other gastrointestinal problems.
People should not start taking aspirin hoping to preventing cancer, Cook said. "Most of the studies show that the effect doesn't accrue until after 10 years," she noted.
Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said that "this study provides important new evidence that long-term daily aspirin, even at low doses, may lower risk of developing cancer."
However, any decision about treatment should be made on an individual basis in consultation with a doctor, he acknowledged.
"Because these results are new," Jacobs added, "it will take time for the broader scientific community to evaluate the data in the context of existing knowledge and to consider whether the clinical guidelines should be changed."
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