Asprin 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Medical authorities around the world are warning the public not to take a daily
mini-dose of aspirin without consulting first with their doctors, even though a
British observational analysis showed that over five years, such a dose reduces
the risk of various cancers by 10 percent to 60%.
The Health Ministry in
Jerusalem did not issue a public advisory on the subject via all the health
reporters, although it received a request to do so from The Jerusalem
But it did tell the Post
that even though aspirin is an easily
purchased and cheap drug, “every medication has a consumer’s leaflet inside
explaining possible side effects and dangers from its use. A doctor or
pharmacist should be consulted before taking it long term even though it does
not require a prescription.”
Aspirin, if taken in significant doses and
if the individual suffers from certain conditions or has a specific genetic
background, is toxic, can cause bleeding in the stomach in about one person per
1,000 and can even cause fatal hemorrhagic strokes.
The British study,
which was conducted at the University of Oxford and appeared Tuesday in the
British journal The Lancet, retrospectively studied eight separate trials
encompassing 25,570 patients.
Dr. Peter Rothwell concluded that taking
low doses of aspirin (75 milligrams or a “baby aspirin”) daily can reduce the
risk of many kinds of cancer and that the evidence is strong enough to suggest
that individuals over the age of 40 take it daily to help protect against
Rothwell claimed that while taking aspirin bears a small risk of
hemorrhage, such a risk was “beginning to be drowned out” by its benefits in
reducing the risk of cancers and reducing the risk of heart
Rothwell and his colleagues found that cancer deaths among those
who took aspirin in low doses were 21 percent lower during the studies and 34
percent lower after five years. The painkilling and fever-reducing drug was
shown to reduce the prevalence of esophageal cancer by 60%, gastrointestinal and
colon cancers by half to two-fifths, lung cancer by a third and others by lower
rates, according to Rothwell.
In the past, researchers have explained
that aspirin blocks an enzyme that triggers inflammation and cell division.
Rothwell said that higher doses were not more effective than low doses of
Other experts cautioned that the study wasn’t persuasive enough
to recommend a policy of daily low-dose aspirin for healthy people who reach
middle age. They added that two-thirds of the patients were men, thus the study
didn’t prove that aspirin could protect women and men equally.
Raymond DuBois, a cancer prevention specialist who is provost of the University
of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, told newspapers abroad: “I definitely
think we wouldn’t want to make any treatment decisions based on this
He said that the studies on which the meta-analysis was based had
been carried out to investigate risks of heart disease, so the patients “being
compared may differ on things that affect cancer risk, such as family history of
Critics also noted that several of the authors of the
initial studies had been paid for work they did for pharmaceutical firms that
Prof. Gad Rennert, head of the Israel Cancer
Registry and an adviser to the Israel Cancer Association, said on Wednesday that
“for several years, we have known that regular use of aspirin is connected with
a decline in risk for various types of cancer.
Most of the evidence
related to the risk of colon cancer being reduced when taking a high daily dose
of 325 mg.”
Rennert added that studies began to appear showing that
low-dose aspirin, which posed a lower risk of bleeding, could be protective as
“Our studies in Israel show clearly that low-dose aspirin is
connected with a lower risk of colon cancer and breast cancer and maybe other
organs,” he said.
Although Rennert hadn’t had time to read the article in
The Lancet carefully, he said he was “not surprised” by the findings.
study “justifies a discussion on the use of aspirin for the older general
population – certainly not those under 50. I would be calmer if before a
wholesale recommendation to the public, we could carry out genetic examinations
to check sensitivity to aspirin and its side effects, but there is no such