Aspirin may play a life-saving role in the treatment of cancer, finds a study. Peter Elwood of Cardiff University, who directed the study, said the use of low-dose aspirin as a preventive in heart disease, stroke and cancer is well established but evidence is now emerging that the drug may have a valuable role as an additional treatment for cancer too.
The systematic review, which looked at the survival of 1,20,000 patients with cancer who took aspirin, compared with 4,00,000 patients who did not, showed that at any time following the diagnosis of some cancers the proportion of patients who were still alive was 20-30% greater in those taking the drug. The spread of cancer to other parts of the body was also substantially reduced in patients using aspirin.
One of the colon cancer studies the researchers looked at suggested that a non-diabetic man of about 65 years who takes aspirin would have a prognosis similar to that of a man five years his junior who takes none. For a woman of similar age with colon cancer the addition of aspirin could lead to a similar prognosis of a woman four years younger.
Almost half the studies included in the review were of patients with bowel cancer, and most of the other studies were of patients with breast or prostate cancer. There were very few studies of patients with other less common cancers, but on the whole the pooled evidence for all the cancers is suggestive of benefit from aspirin.
“Patients with cancer should be given the evidence now available and be helped to make their own judgement of the balance between the risks and the benefits of daily low dose. Evidence from further studies is urgently required, and patients should be strongly encouraged to participate in appropriate research studies. All patients should consult their GP before starting new medication,” concluded Elwood.
The study is published in Plos One Medicine.