It’s quite widely accepted that an aspirin a day can keep heart attack and stroke at bay. But how does it work? Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding. But when clotting happens where it shouldn’t – like in the vessels that supply your heart with blood – an artery could get blocked, which would result in a heart attack. A daily aspirin can help keep blood flowing, and reduce the likelihood of a blockage.
And now, new clinical research published in the Annals of Oncology demonstrates another preventative application of aspirin – toward the prevention of certain cancers in older (more susceptible patients).
Here is what the study revealed:
Ten Is The Magic Number
The researchers, based in Queen Mary University of London’s Center of Cancer Prevention, reviewed years of previous clinical trials and studies on the benefits and risks associated with a daily dose of aspirin. They found that taking aspirin for ten 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 from these cancers by 35-50%.
But ten is the magic number. Taking daily aspirin for less than five years yielded little benefit. For patients between the ages of 50-65, ten years of regular aspirin intake proved the most advantageous.
Aspirin Is Not A Silver Bullet
Despite rigorous pharmaceutical quality assurance protocols, aspirin – like many drugs – comes with side-effects that come into play after continuous and extended use. The UK researchers confirmed what previous studies have already revealed: aspirin can lead to stomach bleeding. Amongst 60-year-old individuals who take daily aspirin for ten years, the risk of digestive tract bleeds increases from 2.2% to 3.6%, and this could be life-threatening in a very small proportion (less than 5%) of people. After the age of 70 though, risks of bleeding increase sharply. The study also found that the risk of peptic ulcer increased as a result of prolonged aspirin use – by 30-60%.
Do The Pros Outweigh The Cons?
After gathering and reviewing all of the evidence out there on risks and benefits associated with daily aspirin intake, the researchers suggest that after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, aspirin is one the best preventions we’ve got against certain cancers. Despite an abundance of pharmaceutical testing initiatives, Big Pharma has yet to formulate drugs that effectively target cancers without considerable impact to the patient’s vital systems. It seems that by comparison, a preventative therapy like daily aspirin could be our best bet in fighting the disease before it starts.
Do you think we should rely on preventative pharmaceutical use in the fight against cancer?