Researchers Begin Looking into the Anti-Cancer Properties of Aspirin

There has been publicity in recent years about the possibility that aspirin may reduce cancer risk but a number of questions remain.  Cancer Research UK is beginning a study that will hopefully answer some of those questions.

Previously, an observational study done by researchers at Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge indicated that everyday use of low-dose aspirin could cause a 24% reduction of risk of death in colon cancer and an 11% reduction in prostate cancer. However, these studies were observational, therefore unable to prove that the aspirin actually reduces the risk of death. Studies also indicated that ‘for every 17 lives saved by preventing cancer or heart attacks there would be 2 deaths caused by strokes, bleeding or ulcers.’

In response to this unwanted side effect of a potentially helpful idea, Cancer Research UK will lead an international study which aims to determine who is likely to benefit from taking aspirin daily, and who is at risk of bleeding. The research will also explore what the ideal dose is, the time period for which it should be taken, and how the aspirin is working to reduce the cancer risk. While the elements of aspirin that reduce pain are widely understood, the mechanisms of how it diminishes cancer risk remain a mystery. The hope is that by discovering this, a new drug can be invented which has the same benefits but eliminates the risk of bleeding.

Professor Jack Cuzick, Cancer Research UK’s epidemiology expert and lead researcher based at Queen Mary, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to finally answer the questions that stand in the way of aspirin being more widely used to cut cancer risk. By bringing together researchers from the lab right through to epidemiology – who have not had the opportunity to work together before, it will help us to understand how aspirin prevents cancer and who will benefit most.”
For more information please visit Cancer Research UK or NHS Choices.