In addition to its heart protective properties, a growing body of research suggests that aspirin may help to prevent certain cancers, including
Prostate Cancer: According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, regular use of aspirin, ibuprofen and other non -steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help to protect against prostate cancer. In March 2004, Maya Clinic Proceedings published a study that found that men aged 60 and older who used NSAIDs daily, cut their risk of prostate caner by as much as 60 per cent.
Bowel Cancer: Several recent studies support the claim that taking low dose aspirin may help to prevent bowel, or colorectal cancer. Research at the Molecular Medicine Unit at the University of Leeds examined the effects of a variety of NSAIDs, including aspirin, on human colorectal cancer cells and found that all stopped the cells spreading. The protective effect may be linked to an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is elevated in colon cancer. Aspirin and other NSAIDs suppress the production of this enzyme and, in animal studies, have been shown to cause colon tumours to shrink dramatically.
Lung Cancer: In a New York study published in July 2002 in British Journal of Cancer 14,000 women were questioned about their, long term use of aspirin. The medical histories of 81 women who developed lung cancer were compared with those of more than 800 who didn’t. Researchers found that, while smoking was the biggest risk factor, women who took aspirin regularly had less than half the normal risk of non-small cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.
Researchers do not yet know exactly how aspirin protects against these and possibly, other cancers, but they have several theories. For instance, aspirin and other NSAIDs work to block the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause inflammation and appear to encourage the growth of certain tumours. Aspirin may also prevent some cell division – a particularly important property when dealing with caner cells, whose main danger is their propensity to divide uncontrollably. another reason for aspirin’s anti – cancer effects may stem from the drug’s ability to prevent the production and action of enzymes produced by certain cancer cells. Other possible mechanisms of action include aspirin’s apparent power to limit the damaging effects of some cancer- causing carcinogens, such as cigarette smoke and environmental toxins, and to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, which kills off tumour cells.