A new study suggests regular doses of aspirin may help stave off a rare type of inherited cancer.
Research from Newcastle University and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, says daily aspirin use can benefit people with Lynch syndrome.
Lynch syndrome is estimated to be responsible for 3 to 5 percent of all colorectal cancers. It’s an inherited genetic disorder.
It affects genes responsible for fixing damaged DNA. More than half of people with it develop cancer, usually in the bowels or womb.
The new research was conducted over a 10-year period involving 937 people with Lynch syndrome.
Researchers said obese people with the syndrome were 2.75 times as likely to develop cancer compared to people at a healthy weight. They found a Lynch syndrome patient's risk for bowel cancer increased by 7 percent for every unit over a healthy body mass index (BMI).
Taking two aspirins a day, however, lowered their risk to non-obese levels.
The Connection Between Obesity, Aspirin, and Cancer
Sir John Burn, professor of clinical genetics at Newcastle University, says aspirin helps reduce inflammation, which has been linked to an increase risk of cancer.
Being overweight or obese increases inflammation in the body.
“This is important for people with Lynch syndrome but affects the rest of us, too. Lots of people struggle with their weight and this suggests the extra cancer risk can be cancelled by taking an aspirin,” Burn said in a press release.
While the researchers say more studies are needed to examine their findings, they do believe aspirin affects the mechanisms that predispose someone to cancer. One way it may do this is by helping speed up the death of unhealthy cells.
“We may be seeing a mechanism in humans whereby aspirin is encouraging genetically damaged stem cells to undergo programmed cell death, this would have an impact on cancer,” Burn said.
But besides helping to prevent cancer in a small sect of the population, aspirin has potential therapeutic benefits for diabetics and, of course, preventing a second heart attack.
Aspirin Therapy for Diabetics
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke, regardless if you’re a man or a woman.
The key reason behind this is increase in the production of thromboxane, which aggravates blood clotting. Research has shown aspirin can block thromboxane from creating further heart problems.
The ADA says that low-dose aspirin therapy — 75 milligrams a day — has been shown to be an effective preventive therapy in reducing a diabetic’s risk of cardiovascular events, namely in people over 40 with type 1 diabetes.
“Despite its proven efficacy, aspirin therapy is underutilized in patients with diabetes,” the official ADA guidelines state. “Available data suggest that less than half of eligible patients are being treated with aspirin.”
How Much Aspirin Prevents a Heart Attack?
Aspirin interrupts the blood’s ability to clot, which is important for people with hardened arteries or at risk of blood clots.
Low-dose aspirin has been used to prevent stroke and heart attack for people with an elevated risk. Unless a person has a history of bleeding or is allergic to aspirin, doctors often prescribe daily aspirin therapy to people who have had a heart attack.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, doesn’t recommend aspirin therapy as a preventative measure for people who haven’t yet had a heart attack or stroke.
Low doses are prescribed in various amounts, from 75 milligrams — which is less than a baby aspirin — to 325 milligrams, or a full-dose of adult aspirin.
One study concluded that a person must take 160 milligrams a day to reap the protective benefits. Upon reviewing existing evidence, researchers found doses of aspirin lower than that didn’t have the intended effects.
While emergency medical technicians may advise taking an aspirin during a heart attack, the American Heart Association doesn’t advise taking aspirin during a stroke. Many strokes are caused by blood clots, but others are due to a ruptured blood vessel.
Thinning the blood with aspirin could make bleeding in the brain increase.
The Bottom Line
Aspirin may be beneficial for many people, but it’s not right for everyone.
Before starting any kind of daily therapy, make sure to talk to your doctor first. This can prevent any complications, especially if you’re already taking medications.