LEBANON, NH -- A seven-year study led by Dartmouth Medical School researchers shows that a daily dose of aspirin can be effective in reducing the risk of colon adenomas benign tumors that can develop into cancer if left in the bowel.
The study, conducted jointly by doctors and researchers from Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, and at several other institutions across North America, confirms indications from non-randomized studies that low-dose aspirin may protect against cancers of the colon and rectum. The final results of the study were published in the March 6, 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. John Baron was lead author of the article, and co-author of another report in the NEJM that also found that aspirin protected against adenomas of the colon and rectum. He noted that the findings of the two studies show that low doses of aspirin do protect against the pre-cancerous polyps, and so there is good reason to believe aspirin probably reduces rates of colorectal cancer itself. This will be particularly valuable for people who are at increased risk for cancer because they have had colon adenomas (polyps) or because they have previously been treated for colorectal cancer.
The randomized, double-blind study, conducted between 1994 and 2001, looked at over 1100 patients with previously diagnosed colorectal adenomas. Some patients received aspirin either 81 mg or 325 mg while others received a placebo. Interestingly, the group receiving the smaller dose of aspirin 81-mg, or the equivalent of one baby aspirin showed a lower incidence of recurring polyps than did those treated with the larger dose of aspirin 325 mg or the equivalent of a standard adult aspirin.
Overall, those treated with a daily dose of baby aspirin found their risk of polyps reduced 19 percent and their risk of advanced lesions reduced by more than 40 percent.
The companion study, conducted among patients with a history of cancer of the colon or rectum, tested a regular aspirin tablet (325 mg) against placebo. It showed even larger reductions in the occurrence of adenoma about a 35% reduction.
Although aspirin is generally a safe drug, Baron noted that it can have adverse effects for some individuals. Before people embark on a daily aspirin regimen, they should check with their doctor, he said. And, he stressed that just taking aspirin is not enough to assure freedom from colon cancer.
"Aspirin is not a magic bullet. Although the incidence was reduced, all the polyps didn't go away in our study. Regular screenings, perhaps including colonoscopies, are still important."
Aspirin Could Reduce Breast Cancer And Help Existing Sufferers, Review of Studies Suggests.
Aspirin may reduce breast cancer
ScienceDaily — Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin may reduce breast cancer by up to 20 per cent, according to an extensive review carried out by experts at London's Guy's Hospital. But they stress that further research is needed to determine the best type, dose and duration and whether the benefits of regularly using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) outweigh the side effects, especially for high-risk groups.
"Our review of research published over the last 27 years suggests that, in addition to possible prevention, there may also be a role for NSAIDs in the treatment of women with established breast cancer" says Professor Ian Fentiman from the Hedley Atkins Breast Unit at the hospital, part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.
"NSAID use could be combined with hormone therapy or used to relieve symptoms in the commonest cause of cancer-related deaths in women."
Professor Fentiman and Mr Avi Agrawal reviewed 21 studies covering more than 37,000 women published between 1980 and 2007.
Their review included 11 studies of women with breast cancer and ten studies that compared women who did and did not have the disease.
"The purpose of a review like this is to look at a wide range of published studies and see if it is possible to pull together all the findings and come to any overarching conclusions" explains Professor Fentiman. "This includes looking at any conflicting results and exploring how the studies were carried out.
"For example some of the studies we looked at as part of this review found no links between NSAIDs and reduced levels of breast cancer, while others suggested that taking NSAIDs can reduce the breast cancer risk by about a fifth.
"Having weighed up the findings from over 20 studies, we have concluded that NSAIDs may well offer significant protection against developing breast cancer in the first place and may provide a useful addition to the treatment currently available to women who already have the disease.
"Recent studies of NSAIDs use have shown about a 20 per cent risk reduction in the incidence of breast cancer, but this benefit may be confined to aspirin use alone and not other NSAIDs."
Previous studies have suggested that NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen, which have traditionally been used as mainstream non-prescription analgesics, may provide protection against coronary heart disease and some malignancies, such as colorectal cancer.
But Professor Fentiman is urging caution until further research fully weighs up the pros and cons of using NSAIDs to prevent and treat breast cancer.
"Our review did not look at the potential side effects of using NSAIDs on a regular basis" stresses Professor Fentiman "These can include gastrointestinal bleeding and perforation which can carry a significant risk of ill health and death.
"It would be essential to take these negative effects into account before we could justify routinely using NSAIDs like aspirin to prevent breast cancer.
"More research is clearly needed and we are not advocating that women take these non prescription drugs routinely until the benefits and risks are clearer.
"But our findings clearly indicate that these popular over-the-counter drugs could, if used correctly, play an important role in preventing and treating breast cancer."
Journal reference: NSAIDS and breast cancer: possible prevention and treatment strategy. Agrawal A and Fentiman I S. IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice. 62.3, 444-449. (March 2008)
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