August 22, 2012

Study: An Aspirin a Day Could Help Keep Cancer Mortality at Bay

AtlantaCould a simple aspirin a day reduce deaths from cancer?

The answer is "yes," with some qualifiers, according to a new study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It found that daily use of aspirin is associated with lower overall cancer mortality, but the association may not be as significant as once thought.

Researchers from the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta looked at data on 100,139 men and women from the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort who had no prior history of cancer and had been taking a daily dose of aspirin. Follow-up questionnaires were used to gauge the study group's aspirin intake.

Among the 5,138 participants whose deaths were cancer-related, daily aspirin usage was linked with slightly lower cancer mortality, although that appeared unrelated to the length of daily use. Associations were somewhat stronger in an analysis using updated aspirin information obtained from periodic follow-up questionnaires and included 3,373 cancer deaths.

"Our results are consistent with an association between recent daily aspirin use and modestly lower cancer mortality," the authors write. The estimated reduced risk of 16% was much lower, however, than the 37% reduction seen during the five-year follow-up period in an earlier pooled analysis. The earlier research also found a 15% reduction during a 10-year follow-up.

Despite that, according to the researchers, "Even a relatively modest benefit with respect to overall cancer mortality could still meaningfully influence the balances of risk and benefits of prophylactic aspirin use."

In an accompanying editorial, John A. Baron, MD, of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine writes that the findings of the study reinforce the idea that there is a link between daily aspirin use and reduced cancer mortality, but says more research is required before using aspirin for that reason.

"This is exciting: simply taking a pill can prevent cancer incidence and cancer death," Baron writes. "However, just because aspirin is effective does not mean it necessarily should be used. Aspirin is a real drug, with definite toxicity.

"As for any preventative intervention, the benefits must be balanced against the risks, particularly when the benefits are delayed whereas the risks are not," he notes.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect