Aspirin As Cancer Preventive
October 1, 2012

Aspirin As Cancer Preventive: Hot Debate Among Professors

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Growing evidence is suggesting that aspirin, the pain reliever drug used to fend off aches and heart disease, may also be able to prevent cancer.

Studies are showing that taking aspirin may reduce an individual's chances of developing colorectal cancer and maybe some other types of malignancies. Although the evidence is growing, so far it still hasn't outweighed the risks of prescribing aspirin to millions of healthy people.

Experts came together for the ESMO 2012 Congress in Vienna and set up a debate during one of the event's "Controversy" sessions.

Professor Robert Benamouzig from the Department of Gastroenterology, Avicenne Hospital in France, argued in favor of the question: "Is aspirin (NSAID) ready for chemoprevention of colorectal adenoma/cancer?"

Benamouzig said that in 2010 researchers published a 20-year follow-up study of five pooled randomized trials that assessed the effect of aspirin on colorectal cancer incidence and mortality.

"The study of more than 14,000 patients found that daily aspirin at any dose reduced risk of colorectal cancer by 24% and associated deaths by 35% after a delay of about 8 to 10 years," he argued at the conference.

He said in these trials the reduction of colorectal cancer rates was a side effect of treatment and that not one of them had a reduction in their primary outcome.

"Nevertheless, the evidence that aspirin is effective for preventing these colorectal cancers is very strong," Benamouzig said.

Professor Nadir Arber, Director of the Integrated Cancer Prevention Center at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, said aspirin should not be used as a preventative.

"NSAIDs and in particular aspirin are very promising in secondary prevention of colorectal neoplasia, however their role in primary prevention is still not proven," Prof. Arber said. "This means that the majority of the population does not need, and is not going to benefit from aspirin use."

He said specific high-risk populations could benefit from taking aspirin, such as people with hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis, existing colorectal cancer or adenoma patients.

"In the future based on genomic profile, we would be able to identify people who are at high risk of developing colorectal cancers and who might benefit from aspirin therapy," he argued at the event.

Arber presented findings that showed the efficacy and toxicity of aspirin in preventing cancer can be predicted based on some single nucleotide polymorphisms.

He said before aspirin can be used for preventing these cancers, we need to develop means of identifying people who are going to benefit from the drug without developing the side effects.

"We need a study that will measure overall morbidity and mortality and not efficacy and toxicity in a single organ or disease such as cardio-vascular disease," he said at the event.