Aspirin benefits confirmed in the fight against cancer

2014 Research
Special Report:

Aspirin benefits confirmed in the fight against cancer

Several studies have recently appeared concerning the benefits of common aspirin in the fight against cancer.

Firstly, scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have conducted a meta-study on aspirin and concluded that it does have potential in the fight against cancer (Annals of Oncology); and that potential outweighs the risks of any side-effects.

Then a team from Trinity College, Dublin showed that women with Grades I-III breast cancer were less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes if they had been taking aspirin prior to the diagnosis (Cancer Research).

Thirdly, another study in the journal Cancer Research showed that overweight women who had survived oestrogen-positive breast cancer were only half as likely to have a recurrence if they were taking daily aspirin. And where it did recur it took longer to do so.

It was only two years ago that Oxford University and John Radcliffe Hospital scientists led by Professor Peter Rothwell found ´strong evidence´ across a number of studies that aspirin could not only help prevent the development of cancer but could reduce the chances of cancer spreading and reduce deaths from cancer.


The Oxford researchers said the evidence was ´so strong´ they urged NICE to take immediate action telling Doctors to prescribe aspirin to cancer patients. Some of the studies involved over 200,000 people and there was particular emphasis on throat and lung cancer although the research involved all cancers.


Prevention - One study showed that taking a daily small aspirin tablet for three years reduced the chances of developing cancer in men by 23 per cent, and in women by 25 per cent.


Reducing Metastases - Another study showed that once cancer had been diagnosed the chances of it spreading were cut in more than half (55%) if aspirin was taken daily for six and a half years.


Reducing Death - A third study showed that aspirin cut the risk of dying from cancer by more than a third (37%) if taken daily for five years.

In the new Queen Mary meta-study researchers, led by Professor Jack Cuzick, Head of QMUL’s Centre for Cancer Prevention, found taking aspirin for 10 years could cut bowel cancer cases by around 35% and deaths by 40%. Rates of oesophageal and stomach cancers were cut by 30% and deaths by 35-50%.

As with the Oxford research, which talked about 6 years continued use, QMUL evidence showed people should take a daily dose for at least five years and probably 10. They concluded that no benefit occurred in the first three years.

Professor Jack Cuzick of QMUL said “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."

Some uncertainty was expressed over the levels that should be taken, but Cancer Watch has covered research from The Mayo clinic, Oxford University and others, all of which were consistent in their conclusions that a mini-aspirin of 75mgs to 81 mgs was optimum. This is just a quarter of a standard 300 mg tablet.

There was then debate about how the aspirin might have an effect. In the early 1990s, work by Sir John Vane showed it reduced inflammation in the body by inhibiting the Cox-2 pathway. He won a Nobel Prize for his work. Inflammation can be the precursor to many illnesses including cancer. We have covered research showing inflammation can also aid metastases. 

Both the Oxford and the QMUL research suggested it might stop the action of blood platelets, which cause the blood to clot. Apart from their role in strokes and heart attacks, platelets are also involved in the cancer process, in metastases and in tumour formation. 

Readers should note: You should not take aspirin on an empty stomach. Long-term usage can cause bleeding in the digestive tract – 60 year olds who have taken aspirin for ten years increase their risk of such bleeding from 2.2 to 3.6 per cent. Bleeding can be life threatening in a small number of cases.

There is also the risk of ulceration. 

Other natural compounds can be effective at reducing inflammation via the Cox-2 pathway. These include fish oils, curcumin, garlic, ginger, Aloe vera and resveratrol. For an article on aspirin and other compounds that prevent inflammation please click here.

"If you are already thinking of supplementing with the above you may like to look at what Natural Selection has to offer by clicking here."

Cuzick was unequivocal: "Our study shows that if everyone aged between 50-65 started taking aspirin daily for at least 10 years, there would be a 9% reduction in the number of cancers, strokes and heart attacks overall in men and around 7% in women. The total number of deaths from any cause would also be lower, by about 4% over a 20-year period. The benefits of aspirin use would be most visible in the reduction in deaths due to cancer”.

2014 Research
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