Regular aspirin use found to double survival rates for gastrointestinal cancer patients

A study involving almost 14,000 cancer patients has linked increased survival rates with regular aspirin use. The research involved sufferers of various forms of gastrointestinal tumors and found that patients who starting to use aspirin after they had been diagnosed doubled their chances of survival.

Led by scientists from the Netherlands' Leiden University Medical Centre, the study analyzed data of 13,715 gastrointestinal cancer patients. This form of illness pertains to the group of cancers affecting the digestive system, with the colon, rectum and oesophagus the most common tumor sites among the subjects in this study. Of the subjects, 30.5 percent had used aspirin before being diagnosed, while 8.3 percent began taking it after the fact, and 61.1 percent had not used aspirin at all.

The team found that those who started using aspirin after their diagnosis were twice as likely to be alive after four years as those who did not. This observation was made after adjusting for factors such as sex, age, stage of cancer, types of treatment and other medical conditions.

The cancer-fighting properties of aspirin have been explored for some time. In 2012, researchers developed a new aspirin compound that curbed the growth of 11 different types of human cancer cells in culture. Earlier studies have suggested that aspirin can reduce the risk of dying when it comes to gastrointestinal cancers, but the Dutch researchers say this is the first time data from patients with tumors in different gastrointestinal locations has been analyzed at the same time.

The humble aspirin seems to benefit in the treatment of many cancers. Hope they'd come round to testing on BC patients! In the meanwhile, why not take the drug regularly ? Except for gastric acidity, there are very few and rare serious side effects. It is even beneficial for cardiac problems. Could Dr Sumeet give his opinion in the matter?

6 Replies

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  • It is a good study. For quite some time, it is known Aspirin has beneficial effects against cancers. Aspirin, otherwise, is a reasonably safe drug, and a lot of elderly population anyways takes it for cardiac problems. The reason of not giving Aspirin routinely is that, the benefits need some more scientific studies, and Aspirin is not entirely without side effects. So if we are giving, we must ascertain that it indeed is beneficial.

    One another drug, similar to Aspirin, which is known to help (but not fully scientifically proven yet), is Celecoxib. But again, it has harmful effects on the heart and hence not used routinely and has to be given carefully.

    There is one class of drugs which we call as 'metronomic therapy' (search that in Google, you will get a lot of info). Where we give some small doses of chemo tablets daily and disease tends to remain under control. There is not much evidence on such drugs, but studies are going on at various places. I have myself, with my own eyes, seen the benefits of such drugs and its difficult to refute its benefits. But since today's world is full of litigations and stuff, we have to think a lot and a lot before we start some unconventional medicine. For all you know, someone might come and beat me with an iron rod.

  • Put succinctly and clearly, as usual! Thanks for the lead on 'metronomic therapy'.

    In spite of the reservations you expressed, I think Aspirin stands on a different footing than all the other drugs like Celecoxib. It is one of the most widely used drugs, with very minimal side-effects and has proven cardiac benefits. Perhaps its anti-inflammatory action may be somewhat akin to 'metronomic therapy'. If an oncologist advises a patient to take it regularly, it is going to be beneficial to some degree - maybe in cancer or other problems. In any case, it is not going to cause a permanent harm, it can also be discontinued easily if one notices side-effects.

    The point is that aspirin has a good chance of benefiting a cancer sufferer with a minimal risk, and so perhaps, can be prescribed even if its efficacy is not absolutely proven. In a lighter vein, don't doctors prescribe antibiotics for common cold?

  • You are absolutely correct and my thinking is the same as yours. Aspirin will do no big harm. I have never seen anyone with a bleeding tendency due to aspirin.

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) last week released draft recommendations around the use of aspirin to help prevent disease, including both cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes) and colorectal cancer. The inclusion of colorectal cancer as part of these guidelines is a first.

    The USPSTF is a government appointed, but independent, panel of medical experts whose recommendations are highly influential in guiding what doctors tell their patients to do. The new USPSTF recommendations are still a draft. They are currently open for public comment, and USPSTF will review the feedback it gets before making a final decision.

    There are risks and benefits to regular aspirin use, and the USPSTF weighed both in order to come up with their recommendation. The draft guidelines are recommending that certain adults in their 50s, who are at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke, and do not have risk factors for stomach bleeding, start taking low-dose aspirin daily to help prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Regular aspirin use can cause serious health problems such as stomach bleeding, which is why no public health organization, including the American Cancer Society, recommends taking aspirin solely to reduce cancer risk.

  • Yes. Apart from the effects of gastro intestinal bleeding, the other reason of not routinely using is paucity of experience and trials. Colorectal cancer follows a different pathway and breast and other cancers have a different pathway. That's why use in one cancer may not mean benefit for all. However, this is only as of today. I won't be surprised if in future, we have same guidelines for other cancers including breast cancer.

  • Be sure to discuss this with your doctor if you are on a blood thinner like warfarin (Coumadin) ! Aspirin can make the possibility of bleeding episodes worse!

    Pat

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