Friday, March 23, 2012

A low dose coated aspirin a day may keep cancer spread at bay? Bring it on!

Most people are aware of the recommendation involving the use of a coated baby aspirin (75mg-81mg)  in the war against heart attacks and many people who have had a heart attack or stroke take one enteric coated baby aspirin/day to help decrease the risk of another infarct. 

But have you heard that aspirin may have a role in decreasing the spread of cancer?

Three new British studies suggest that after taking aspirin for 3 to 4 years, there starts to be a reduction in the number of people with the spread of cancers.  Lead researcher Dr. Peter M. Rothwell (University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford feels there is potential for aspirin to be used in the treatment of cancers.

In the past, investigators showed that daily use of aspirin taken over 10 years prevented the spread of some cancers.  It seemed that aspirin may work against cancer by inhibiting platelets that cause clotting and also help cancer cells spread.

In recent studies, Rothwell's team looked at the effect of aspirin on slowing the spread of cancer, or metastasis.

They obtained their data regarding cancer from five clinical trials that were already looking at low dose aspirin and heart attack/stroke prevention.  The researchers also focused attention on patients who developed cancer.

Over more than six years of follow-up, low-dose aspirin reduced the risk of distant spread or metastasis by 36 percent, compared with cancer patients receiving a placebo.

Moreover, aspirin reduced the risk of metastasis in solid tumors, such as colon, lung and prostate cancer, by 46 percent and by 18 percent for cancers of the bladder and kidney.

For those who continued to take aspirin after a cancer diagnosis, the risk of metastasis was cut by 69 percent, the researchers calculated.

Aspirin also reduced the risk of dying from cancer by about half. These risk reductions remained after taking into account age and sex, the researchers said.

Although most people would find these findings uplifting, “not so fast” says Nancy R. Cook, an associate biostatistician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial. She pointed out that these studies only dealt with trials where aspirin was given daily, whereas two large trials in which aspirin was given every other day found no connection with cancer prevention.

"Aspirin seems to work for people who have had a history of cardiovascular disease. Perhaps in the long-term it will turn out to be protective for cancer, but we need to verify that and get more information," Cook said.

And, aspirin is not benign, Cook said, pointing out risks for bleeding and other gastrointestinal problems.

“People should not start taking aspirin hoping to preventing cancer, Cook said. "Most of the studies show that the effect doesn't accrue until after 10 years," she noted.

On the flip side, Eric Jacobs, strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said that "this study provides important new evidence that long-term daily aspirin, even at low doses, may lower risk of developing cancer."

However, any decision about treatment should be made on an individual basis in consultation with a doctor, he said.

Okay, I am chomping at the bit to comment here.  In a world where distant organ metastasis of cancer almost brings a death sentence….I am thrilled with the possibility that something as simple as taking an enteric coated low dose aspirin DAILY may actually decrease the chance of a future cancer spreading or may cut the risk of dying of cancer by 50%.

Ms. Cook points out that studies in which people took aspirin every other day did not provide the same results.  Then, with your MD’s okay, take the aspirin daily!!!   She points out that it may take years for aspirin to have this anti-metastatic benefit.  Doesn’t it make sense to start tomorrow, then? 

If the negative effects of low dose aspirin therapy are possible bleeding or GI upset, irritation….absolutely consult with your MD before starting an aspirin regimen.  With medical approval, take a low dose aspirin, make it coated or enteric, and get started.  It can make a life or death difference down the road.