Did You Take Your Aspirin Today?
The amazing medicine discovered at the turn of the 20th Century by German chemists working at Bayer Pharmaceutical, aspirin, has become synonymous with the treatment of aches and pains, fevers, and inflammation. It is one of most widely used medications in the entire world. About 40,000 metric tons of it is consumed each year. New uses of this amazing medicine, derived originally from the salicylic acid found in willow bark and the spiraea shrub, are constantly being tested. Most recently, it was looked at by researchers at the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta, Georgia. They found that daily intake of aspirin, regardless of whether or not one is sick, is associated with lower overall cancer mortality.
The study was led by Dr. Eric J. Jacobs at the ACS Epidemiology Research Program. They looked at previously conducted randomized trials of daily aspirin use as a preventive measure for vascular events. The results showed a significant decrease of 37 percent during the 5-year follow up, and a 15 percent decrease during the 10-year follow up.
However, the lengths of the follow-up analysis were not long enough to show what the real long-term effects of daily aspirin use are. To find out, Dr. Jacobs and his colleagues looked at data on over 100,000 men and women who had no prior history of cancer, but had been taking a daily dose of aspirin.
Among the over 5,000 patients who died of cancer, the daily aspirin use was linked with slightly lower cancer mortality. "Our results are consistent with an association between recent daily aspirin use and modestly lower cancer mortality," the authors write.
According to an accompanying editorial by John A. Baron M.D., of the Department of Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, "The drug clearly reduces the incidence and mortality from luminal gastrointestinal cancers, and it may similarly affect other cancers."
He also notes that the ACS findings may be on the conservative side. However, he cautions against reckless use of aspirin and risks involved. "As for any preventative intervention, the benefits must be balanced against the risks, particularly when the benefits are delayed whereas the risks are not."
This study has been published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Aspirin image via Shutterstock