In part of the ongoing debate over the merits of aspirin, a new study has found that this commonplace drug can reduce the risk of colon cancer. However, it can still increase the risk of internal bleeding.
One of the reasons pharmacists developed COX-II inhibitors was so that patients could avoid the ulcers and internal bleeding caused by normal NSAIDs. Of course, this has been controversial of late, with certain COX-II drugs being pulled from the market because of increased side effect risks such as heart attack and even death.
As a result, all eyes have turned back to aspirin. The drug is made from acetyl salicylic acid (ASA), which has been a long-time treatment for pain and a respected method of heart attack prevention. The blood-thinning effects of this drug can help prevent potentially fatal blood clots as well.
A new study is showing that the old mainstay of pain relief may protect the body against colon cancer, too. Published in JAMA, the study looked at the number of colon cancer cases found in close to 83,000 women. They found that those who took aspirin two times a week reduced their chance of colon cancer noticeably compared to those who didn’t use the drug.
However, it was only when patients took the drug for longer than 10 years that the effects were noticeable. People who took the most aspirin pills (14 a week) had the lowest risk of cancer. Their risk was 30 to 35% lower than the risk for people who rarely took the drug.
The only problem is that those women taking the highest doses of aspirin also had the highest risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. This bleeding can be painful, debilitating, and even fatal if left untreated. In the end, it’s not certain if aspirin therapy for colon cancer prevention is a safe option.
More studies will have to be conducted in order to see whether or not the risk of bleeding is outweighed by the reduction in cases of cancer. For now, just keep taking your aspirin pills as you normally would — and don’t forget to get regularly checked for colon cancer.