- Study says drug blocks enzymes involved in growth of cancerous tumours
- Group of 13,000 cardiac patients focus of the research by Italian scientists
- Nearly 50,000 new cases of prostate cancer every year and 11,000 deaths
A study of more than 13,000 cardiac patients showed that men taking aspirin had substantially lower levels of prostate cancer than those who did not take it.
Overall, they were 36 per cent less likely to get the disease – and among those who had been taking aspirin regularly for five or more years, the likelihood of the disease dropped by an astonishing 57 per cent.
A spokesman for the Italian team that carried out the study said: ‘Our findings indicate that low-dose aspirin might be associated with a reduction of risk of prostate cancer in patients with cardio or cerebrovascular [stroke causing] diseases.
‘Raising patients’ awareness of its beneficial role in the prevention of prostate cancer might help improve adherence to the long-term therapy for the prevention of vascular problems.’
Aspirin, a painkiller and anti-inflammatory, is widely prescribed to people at risk of heart disease.
Aspirin works by interfering with blood clotting by reducing the clumping together of platelets or clotting cells.
Studies have also suggested it may help prevent colorectal cancers in heart patients.
One theory about its anti-cancer effect is that the drug blocks cyclooxygenase or COX enzymes which are involved in the pain and inflammatory process.
COX enzymes may also be involved in the growth of new blood vessels that help cancerous tumours to grow, and that by blocking their activity, aspirin reduces the likelihood of the cancer both growing and also spreading.
Aspirin may trigger cancer cell death too.
There are nearly 50,000 new cases of prostate cancer a year and 11,000 deaths, according to Cancer Research UK.
The prostate study was carried out by doctors from the Italian College of General Practitioners and Primary Care and reported in the International Journal Of Cancer.
Comment from Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand:
This study from January 2016 is now doing the rounds on the the news websites. The temptation here is to say that aspirin works for preventing prostate cancer, but a closer look at the original study does not quite support this idea. The study was “observational”, which means that it was not a rigorously controlled experiment, and so is less reliable, and less able to answer a specific question. What the researchers found was that the men in the study who took regular aspirin were less likely to die of prostate cancer. They found no difference in the chances of the men developing prostate cancer, or specifically high grade prostate cancer, and the men taking the aspirin who developed prostate cancer didn’t live any longer than the men who didn’t. So what does this mean? Maybe taking aspirin is good for prostate cancer, or maybe there is something else going on. Maybe men who take aspirin are taking it because they have had a heart attack or stroke, or are at high risk of having one. Although these men got as much prostate cancer as those who didn’t take aspirin, maybe they died of other causes before the prostate cancer had a chance to become fatal. To accurately investigate this, a controlled study where men with other medical problems could either be excluded, or accounted for needs to be done. Food for thought, but considering that aspirin can cause side effects of it’s own, not enough proof to encourage all men to take aspirin to prevent prostate cancer.