October 22, 2010

Low Dose Aspirin May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

The same low dose aspirin recommended by doctors to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke can also help combat colon cancer, according to new researched published Friday in The Lancet.

An international team of researchers, led by Oxford University Professor Peter M. Rothwell, conducted a series of four randomized trials over a total period of 20 years.

Each of the studies lasted an average of six years and involved a total of more than 14,000 patients, who either took a placebo or one of several different strengths of aspirin, with some consuming doses of as much as 1,200mg, according to AFP.

According to BBC News Health Reporter Nick Triggle, Rothwell's team discovered that the use of low-strength aspirin reduced the risk of contracting bowel cancer by nearly one-fourth (24%), and reduced the disease's fatality levels by 35%.

"Aspirin taken for several years at doses of at least 75 mg daily reduced long-term incidence and mortality due to colorectal cancer," the authors concluded. "Benefit was greatest for cancers of the proximal colon, which are not otherwise prevented effectively by screening with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy."

"To date, for healthy middle-aged people it has been a fine balance as to whether to take aspirins, but this tips it in my view," Rothwell told BBC News on Thursday. "There is a small benefit for vascular disease and now we know a big benefit for this cancer. In the future, I am sure it will be shown that aspirin helps prevent other cancers too."

Some, however, have questioned whether the benefits of taking low dose aspirin outweigh the risks. Aspirin, even in low doses, can thin the blood and make clotting difficult. It has also been linked to "deadly bleeding in the stomach and intestines," according to a Reuters report, which also notes that related studies have found that the painkiller ibuprofen "can also reduce colon cancer rates among people who take it regularly over the long term."


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