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Aspirin May be Cancer Wonder Drug: July 4, 2012

The benefits of aspirin are getting a lot of positive attention as researchers find it may decrease the risk and spread of a wide variety of cancers.

An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.  That’s Jerome Mack’s motivation for taking a daily dose.

“Well, my doctor recommended it for my heart,” says Mack.

Ditto for Beverly Ray.

“Because I’ve had two heart surgeries,” says Ray.

Now researchers are beginning to believe simple, over-the-counter, run of the mill aspirin may be a wonder drug when it comes to cancer as well. 

“It’s pretty amazing to see that such a simple and cheap drug can do so much for patients.  Aspirin, through mechanisms that we don’t quite understand although we all think it’s related to decreasing inflammation, can lead to a lot of benefits in oncology,” says Dr. Frank Rodriguez, an oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
Several studies show it could reduce the risk of cancer and prevent tumors from spreading.  Thought to benefit are esophageal, colorectal, colon, lung, breast, liver, prostate, and melanoma cancers. 
“We know that it works in the early stages of some malignancies, but also we’re finding out that it works on the later stages of malignancy; that is in patients that already have cancer.  You can see that the incidences or start of tumors in the liver, or liver metastasis, is actually delayed by the use of aspirin,” says Dr. Rodriguez.
But aspirin is not for everyone.  It can be hard on the stomach and regular use can cause bleeding or other gastrointestinal problems. 
“Your stomach can be much more sensitive to the acids involved in digestion and can lead not only to inflammation, which we call gastritis, but also to pockets of severe inflammation and even ulceration, which is the common peptic ulcer disease,” says Dr. Rodriguez.
What’s unknown is how much is a good thing. People who take aspirin for heart health generally take low dose, but no one is clear on how much it takes to fight cancer.

“In some of these trials they actually took low-dose aspirin every other day, which is a really small amount of aspirin, so it may not take a lot to reach the desired effect,” says Dr. Rodriguez.
“It’s great to hear, I’ll continue to take it,” says Mack.
“I hope it’s true,” says Ray.