New research suggests aspirin may not only help keep cancer at bay, it could play a life-saving role in treatment.
A review of 71 medical studies, which looked at the survival of 120,000 patients with cancer who took aspirin, compared with 400,000 patients who did not, showed that at any time following the diagnosis of some cancers the proportion of patients who were still alive was 20–30 per cent greater in those taking the drug.
The spread of cancer to other parts of the body was also substantially reduced in patients using aspirin.
Cardiff University’s Professor Peter Elwood, who directed the study, said: “The use of low-dose aspirin as a preventive in heart disease, stroke and cancer is well established but evidence is now emerging that the drug may have a valuable role as an additional treatment for cancer too.”
One of the colon cancer studies the researchers looked at suggested that a non-diabetic man of about 65 years who takes aspirin would have a prognosis similar to that of a man five years his junior who takes none.
For a woman of similar age with colon cancer the addition of aspirin could lead to a similar prognosis of a woman four years younger.
Almost half the studies included in the review were of patients with bowel cancer, and most of the other studies were of patients with breast or prostate cancer.
There were very few studies of patients with other less common cancers, but on the whole the pooled evidence for all the cancers suggested a benefit from taking aspirin.
All this evidence of benefit is, however, limited. First, the evidence comes from observational studies of patients who took aspirin for reasons other than the treatment of cancer, and not from appropriate randomised trials designed to test aspirin and cancer.
Furthermore, the evidence is not entirely consistent and a few of the studies failed to detect a benefit attributable to aspirin. More evidence is therefore needed. A number of new randomised trials have been set up, but these are unlikely to report for quite a few years.
Read the full aspirin study.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.