If you were to ask a group of doctors: what type of cancer would you least like to be diagnosed with? Many of them would probably say: pancreatic cancer. With current treatment, the 5-year survival rate is less than 5%, so if there is anything that might decrease the risk of this cancer, we should pay attention.
A simple preventative measure—low dose daily aspirin— has been described in the June 26 edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Dr. Harvey A. Risch and colleagues from the Yale School of Public Health concluded that people who take a dose of from 75 to 325 milligrams of aspirin per day have, after 3 years, a 48% decreased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and individuals who have taken this low dose aspirin for 20 years have a 60% decreased risk.
Pancreatic cancer is puzzling medical researchers, since it is one of the few cancers that is increasing in frequency, and doctors are not sure why. The pancreas is a gland that is hidden deep in the upper abdomen, and secretes insulin and digestive enzymes. Early pancreatic cancer often has no symptoms, and once it is diagnosed, these cancers have often already spread, making it one of the more difficult forms of cancers to treat.
Many people are already taking low dose aspirin to help prevent cardiovascular disease, so this cancer preventative effect might prove to be an additional benefit. Previous studies have also indicated that aspirin might help protect against prostate and colon cancer as well.
The prevailing theory why aspirin might cut the risk of cancer is that it is an anti-inflammatory drug, and chronic inflammation in the body is thought to be a possible cause of cancer. Some things that increase the general level of inflammation in the body are eating too much saturated fat or any trans-fat, inactivity, excessive weight around the abdominal area, chronically inflamed gums, and smoking.
Note that while this research study gives evidence about a potential advantage of aspirin, the use of low dose aspirin is controversial in the medical community, and this study does not absolutely prove that aspirin is good for cancer prevention. So, before you embark on a program of taking low-dose aspirin daily, either to cut your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer, you should talk to your doctor.
Taking even a low-dose of aspirin daily is not without risks, The main risks are an increased risk of bleeding from the stomach and gastro-intestinal system (since aspirin also diminishes our blood’s clotting ability), and while aspirin appears to decrease the risk of some strokes (those caused by blood clots), it increases the risk of other types of strokes (the bleeding type).
But particularly if you have a strong family history for pancreatic, colon, or prostae cancer, or have other risk factors, you might want to have a discussion with your doctor about daily aspirin.
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