From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published October 28, 2011 08:54 AM

New Benefit of Aspirin: Preventing Cancer

Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is one of the most widely used drugs in the world. It is proven to lower fevers, relieve minor aches and pains, and to reduce inflammation. It also has the long-term use of preventing heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots due to its antiplatelet characteristic, which prevents blood from clotting too large within the blood vessel. A new study from Queen's University in Belfast has found that the regular intake of aspirin can lower the risk of developing hereditary cancer by 50 percent.


The active ingredient of aspirin, salicylic acid, has been around for thousands of years. It can be found in willow bark and spiraea, and was used to help with headaches, pains, and fevers. The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, left records of how to use it back in the 4th century, B.C. Modern acetylsalicylic acid was first made by French chemist, Charles Frederic Gerhardt in 1853, and experimented on by other European scientists. The German company, Bayer, found a synthetic way to derive salicin, which caused less digestive problems than previous versions. Bayer's drug was called Aspirin.

Today, aspirin is widely popular around the world. In many countries, including the US, it has become a generic term. With the releases of paracetamol and ibuprofen, aspirin sales declined, but have remained strong into the 21st century. With the release of this new Queen's University study, it may grow stronger still.

The researchers of the decade-long study followed 1,000 patients from 16 countries. They focused on patients with Lynch syndrome, an inherited genetic disorder that leads to cancer. Individuals with the disorder typically develop cancer in the bowel and womb. They found that 30 percent of people not taking aspirin had developed cancer. Only 15 percent who did take aspirin developed cancer. Researchers believe that the aspirin effectively destroys the cells before they turn cancerous.

According to Professor Patrick Morrison from Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, "This is a huge breakthrough in terms of cancer prevention. For those who have a history of hereditary cancers in their family, like bowel and womb cancers, this will be welcome news. Not only does it show we can reduce cancer rates and ultimately deaths, it opens up other avenues for further cancer prevention research. We aim now to go forward with another trial to assess the most effective dosage of aspirin for hereditary cancer prevention and to look at the use of aspirin in the general population as a way of reducing the risk of bowel cancer. For anyone considering taking aspirin I would recommend discussing this with your GP first as aspirin is known to bring with it a risk of stomach complaints, including ulcers."

The study has been published in the online journal, Lancet, on October 28, 2011.

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Image credit: Greefus Groinks

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