Aspirin is now
increasingly being looked at as a drug that may prevent cancer and several
trials are underway. Results from the past indicate that it does have a role in
prevention of some of the cancer.
its effectiveness in cancer prevention requires further study to establish the
dose that would provide maximal advantage with the least side effects, and the
population that would benefit the most from this treatment.
Aspirin is among the
most commonly used medications that has been available for a very long time. It
is an anti-inflammatory drug and a
used in headaches, body aches, toothaches, arthritis and
similar aches and pains of the body. It can also play a role in preventive
medicine. Low-dose aspirin prevents
clotting of blood and is therefore routinely used to prevent heart attack and
Several studies over
the past few years have indicated that aspirin
has anti-cancer effects as well
. This is possibly due to the
anti-inflammatory effect of aspirin. Aspirin
reduces chronic inflammation, which is an
important trigger for cancer.
An analysis of 8
clinical trials indicated that aspirin
reduced the risk of death due to cancer by around 20% when taken for 4 or more
years. The main advantage was for colorectal cancer
. Other gastrointestinal
cancers, as well as cancers of the lung and prostate also benefited from aspirin use.
These cancers are extremely common and affect a large section of the
the number of people that can be saved from the inconveniences of cancer
treatment with a simple medication like aspirin can be substantial.
However, the available
data is not completely conclusive whether aspirin can protect against cancer or
reduce the number of cancer deaths. Therefore several new studies are being
carried out in a more systematic way to confirm or disprove the benefit of
aspirin in reducing cancer-related deaths. The CAPP3 study is evaluating the
cancer-preventing aspect of aspirin use exclusively in Lynch syndrome patients.
Patients with Lynch syndrome
are at a high
risk of several cancers including colorectal cancer. The ASCOLT trial is
studying whether aspirin prevents relapse of colorectal cancer and overall
survival in patients who were recently treated for the same. The ASPREE trial
is evaluating whether the overall benefit of aspirin in preventing various
conditions including heart disease and cancer outweighs the risk of taking it;
aspirin is associated with a risk of bleeding. The AspECT trial is studying if
aspirin in combination with an acid reflux drug can reduce the chances of
cancer in patients with Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a
precancerous condition which predisposes the patient to develop cancer of the
Experts believe that
though aspirin has known anticancer effects
there are several aspects that have to be established before aspirin can be
routinely used for prevention of cancer. Some of these are:
- The right dose of aspirin at
which the effect is present but side effects are absent or minimal.
group of people who would benefit the most. For example, if aspirin prevents
cancer only in those who have particular cellular features, then maybe only
these individuals should receive it for the purpose of cancer prevention.
type of cancer that it will provide protection against the most.
There are several other
methods of cancer prevention. These
include regular screening of the population to detect early cancers or
predisposing conditions, and adopting healthy lifestyles.
In addition, if a
small dose of aspirin can provide protection against cancer, it is surely a
boon to several patients who can mitigate the increased
risk for cancer
at a very low cost.