A medicine developed during the Victorian era could well prove to be one of mankind’s greatest discoveries. And chances are, you have it in your medicine chest right now.
Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) has been the go-to pain reliever for centuries. A derivative was used in ancient Egypt as far back as 3000 BC.
Aspirin is known to relieve minor aches and pains, reduce heart attacks and strokes in high risk patients and prevent blood clots and the recurrence of cardiac tissue death in after a heart attack. But this commonly used drug poses some side effects and risks too.
Now, three new studies have found that aspirin may be beneficial in preventing cancer in some people.
The first study, conducted at the University of Texas at Austin, found overweight and obese women who regularly used aspirin cut their recurrence of hormone-related breast cancer in half.
Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), a group of medications containing pain relievers and fever reducers. In higher doses, NSAIDs can reduce or prevent inflammation, a biological process linked to swelling and cancer.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, suggested that limiting inflammatory signaling may be an effective, less toxic approach than chemotherapy to altering the cancer-promoting effects of obesity.
This approach improves patient response to hormone therapy and allows them to stick with it longer, said Linda A. deGraffenried, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, who conducted the study.
The greatest benefit from aspirin and other NSAIDs used as a control in the study will be in those with a disease driven by inflammation, and not just obesity,” explained DeGraffenried.
Another review study, published in the journal Annuals of Oncology found fewer cancer incidences and mortality in men and women between ages 50 and 65, who were of average risk.