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Feb 11, 2013 at 01:23pm IST

An aspirin a day keeps cancer at bay, studies suggest

If the findings of a latest study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is corroborated by further tests, then aspirin could be the miracle drug that cancer specialists throughout the world have been looking for. The study is the first evidence that aspirin can keep lung cancer at bay even among tobacco users. Lung cancer is one of the biggest killer diseases in the world.

Studying more than 14,000 women about long-term aspirin use, experts from the New York University School of Medicine compared those who went on to develop lung cancer to those who stayed in good health. They related aspirin use to the chances of developing or averting the disease. Taking three pills a week could halve our chances of developing the disease, it says.

Aspirin is the common name for acetylsalicylic acid which is variously used as an analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory medicine. Aspirin was first isolated by Felix Hoffmann, a chemist with the German pharmaceutical company Bayer in 1897 though historical references suggest that the compound could have been used by ancient Greeks and Indians. In India, aspirin is sold over the counter under various brand names, the most popular ones being Dispirin, Anacin, Aspirina, Alka-Seltzer.

An aspirin a day keeps cancer at bay, studies suggest

Three studies suggest that regular aspirin use may be linked to prevention of three different kinds of cancer.

Two earlier studies had linked aspirin to prevention of liver and colorectal cancer. However, lung cancer is the biggest killer around the world and smokers are especially vulnerable to the disease.

Another American study in 2012 had linked Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS to preventing serious liver diseases including cancer.

Aspirin users were 41 per cent less likely to develop liver cancer, according to author of the study Vikrant Sahasrabuddhe of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville and his team. More than 300,000 middle-age and older adults were studied by the scientist-doctor team.

"These associations are prominent with the use of aspirin, and if confirmed, might open new vistas for chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma and chronic liver disease," the authors had written in an issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Yet another Harvard Gazette report on another 2012 study said, "Aspirin therapy can extend the life of colorectal cancer patients whose tumours carry a mutation in a key gene, but it has no effect on patients who lack the mutation, Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists report in the October 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine."

This research studied more than 900 patients with colorectal cancer.

So, with three separate research projects linking aspirin use to prevention of three different kinds of cancer, has the human kind finally found the miracle prevention for cancer? It has to be mentioned here that all these studies point towards aspirin's ability to prevent cancer but not cure it.

Doctors are apprehensive that these studies may lead people towards self-medication. Wrong dosage of aspirin, which is available over the counter without prescription in most countries, can lead to severe damage of the stomach and intestines which can lead to complications.

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