Cancer patients get new hope from the humble aspirin
Survival rate is 20% to 30% greater, while spread of the disease was also reduced, study finds
Cancer patients have a greater chance of surviving the disease if they take a small daily dose of aspirin, a major review suggests.
In a new round-up of 71 studies involving 520,000 people, researchers at Cardiff University discovered that the number of patients still alive was 20% to 30% greater if they had regularly taken the drug.
The spread of cancer to other parts of the body was also substantially reduced in patients using aspirin.
Peter Elwood, an honorary professor at Cardiff University 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.
“Patients with cancer should be given the evidence now available and be helped to make their own judgment of the balance between the risks and the benefits of a daily low dose.
“Evidence from further studies is urgently required. All patients should consult their GP before starting new medication.”
People in the studies were taking 100mg of aspirin a day, or about one-third of a regular tablet.
The research showed that in colon cancer a man of 65 who took a regular aspirin would have a prognosis of similar to a man five years his junior, when compared with someone who did not take the drug.
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 the researchers concluded that the pooled evidence suggested a wide benefit.
Clinical trials in which cancer patients are specifically given aspirin alongside their treatment are ongoing and are due to report back in a few years.
The study also looked at the possibility of cancer causing internal bleeding, which is a concern, particularly for older people.
Very few patients had serious bleeding. Among those who did, the proportion of patients taking aspirin who had a “serious” bleed was no greater than the proportion of patients not taking aspirin who had experienced a “spontaneous” stomach bleed due to causes other than aspirin.
In two studies a very small number of fatal stomach bleeds had occurred, but again the proportion was no greater in the patients on aspirin than in those not taking aspirin.
The research was published in the journal Plos One Medicine.
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