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Aspirin could play key role in treating some cancers

By Allen Cone
Aspirin could play key role in treating some cancers
A review of medical studies found regular use of aspirin could lead to longer survival times from cancer. Photo by stevepb/pixabay

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Regular use of aspirin could lead to longer survival times from cancer, according to a review of medical studies.

In an analysis of 71 studies involving 120,000 patients with cancer who took aspirin and 400,000 patients who did not, researchers found the proportion of patients still alive was 20 percent to 30 greater in those taking aspirin. The findings, which were published Tuesday in PLOS One, also found the spread of cancer to other parts of the body was substantially less among those using aspirin.

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"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," study director Dr. Peter Elwood, an honorary professor at Cardiff University in Wales, said in a press release.

Almost half the studies, which were published through August 2017, involved patients with bowel cancer, and most include patients with breast or prostate cancer.

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According to one colon study, a 65-year-old non-diabetic man who takes aspirin would have a prognosis similar to that of a man five years younger who does not take the drug. And for a woman of similar age with colon cancer, adding aspirin could lead to a prognosis of a woman four years younger.

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Each of the 71 reports examined bleeding, finding 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.

The authors noted a few studies failed to detect benefit attributable to aspirin. While new trials have been set up, the researchers say that much more research is needed to establish the anti-cancer benefits of aspirin.

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"Patients with cancer should be given the evidence now available and be helped to make their own judgement of the balance between the risks and the benefits of daily low dose," Elwood said. "All patients should consult their GP before starting new medication."

In 1974, Elwood's team reported the first randomized trial of aspirin in the prevention of vascular mortality in the British Medical Journal.

The new study is an updated look at his research from a systematic review of five randomized trials and 42 observational published in 2016. At the time, he found aspirin could increase patients' chance of survival by up to 20 percent and help stop their cancer from spreading. The updated reported included no new trials.

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