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Posts tagged ‘Aspirin’

Aspirin may ‘slow elderly brain decline’, study finds

Aspirin tablets

Could taking an aspirin a day slow brain power decline?


An aspirin a day may slow brain decline in elderly women at high risk of cardiovascular disease, research finds.

Around 500 at risk women, between the ages of 70 to 92, were tracked for five years – their mental capacity was tested at the start and end of the study.

Those taking aspirin for the entire period saw their test scores fall much less than those who had not.

The Swedish study is reported in the journal BMJ Open.

Dr Silke Kern, one of paper’s authors, said: “Unlike other countries – Sweden is unique, it is not routine to treat women at high risk of heart disease and stroke with aspirin. This meant we had a good group for comparison.”

The women were tested using a mini mental state exam (MMSE) – this tests intellectual capacity and includes orientation questions like, “what is today’s date?”, “where are we today?” and visual-spatial tests like drawing two interlinking pentagons.

No self-medication

But the report found that while aspirin may slow changes in cognitive ability in women at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, it made no difference to the rate at which the women developed dementia – which was also examined for by a neuropsychiatrist.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The results provide interesting insight into the importance of cardiovascular health on cognition, but we would urge people not to self-medicate with aspirin to try to stave off dementia.

“The study reports no benefit from aspirin on overall dementia rates in the group, and previous trials investigating the potential of drugs like aspirin for dementia have been negative.”

Dr Kern added: “We don’t know the long term risks of taking routine aspirin. For examples ulcers and serious bleeds may outweigh the benefits we have seen. More work is needed. We will be following up the women in this study again in five years.”


Aspirin a ‘no brainer’ against cancer after screening

Helicobacter pylori

About a third of 50- to 70-years-olds carry the bacterium Helicobacter pylori

A mass-screening programme for 50- to 70-year-olds could cut the risk of stomach bleeds experts have said.

About a third of this group carry the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, which makes stomach bleeds three times more likely – and antibiotics eradicate it.

Professor Jack Cuzick told BBC’s Newsnight screening would make the choice to take aspirin to help protect against cancer a “no-brainer”.

He said the test is easy to do and eradication only takes five days.

Research has shown taking low-doses of aspirin can cut the risk of cancer.

“Bleeding is the only major setback.

“It’s trying to identify those who are infected that matters,” said Prof Cuzick, an epidemiologist at the University of London and president of the International Society on Cancer Prevention.

The society working with an international team of experts on cancer prevention is expected to publish a statement on the risks and benefits of long-term aspirin use within weeks.

“We will say this looks very important and needs to be further evaluated”, Prof Cuzick said.

The society first looked into aspirin as a cancer-prevention measure in 2009, and has reconvened as evidence of potential benefits has grown.

Heart attack

Taking low-dose aspirin for five years halves the risk of developing colon cancer, according to data published two years ago by Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University.

But Prof Cuzick told Newsnight the most up-to-date data showed “much stronger results”.

Last year, research indicated daily low-dose aspirin cut the risk of dying by 66% for oesophageal cancer and 25% for lung cancer. When researchers looked at all solid cancers together, the risk also fell, by 25%.

This year, the team looked at aspirin’s effect on the spread of cancer, and found it reduced the risk of secondary spread to the lungs, liver and the brain by “about half”.

Low-dose aspirin is already recommended to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke, but there are no national guidelines on who should consider taking it to prevent cancer, or how much to take.


Aspirin ‘may prevent skin cancer’

The jury is still out on whether aspirin is effective at preventing cancers

An aspirin a day may protect against skin cancer, some experts believe.

People who take aspirin tablets or similar painkillers on a regular basis cut their risk of developing skin cancer – including the most deadly type – malignant melanoma – by about 15%, research suggests.

The work in the journal Cancer involved nearly 200,000 people in Denmark.

But experts say using sunscreen and avoiding too much sun are still the best ways to prevent skin cancer.

Anti-cancer pill?

In the study, approximately 18,000 of the 200,000 participants had been diagnosed with of one of three types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or the rarer but more dangerous malignant melanoma.

There is mounting evidence that aspirin does reduce the risk of some cancers, but it’s too soon to say if this includes skin cancer”

Hazel Nunn Head of health information at Cancer Research UK

The researchers looked at the medical records of the individuals to calculate how many had been prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen over an eight-year period.

Many were taking them for heart conditions or arthritis.

Those who were more frequently prescribed NSAIDs were less likely to have skin cancer.

The higher the dose and the longer a person had been on the medication, the greater the protective effect.

Individuals with more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs had a 15% decreased risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 13% lower risk of malignant melanoma.

NSAIDs did not appear to lower the overall risk of basal cell carcinoma – the most common and least aggressive type of skin cancer. But they did cut the risk of basal cell carcinomas developing on certain parts of the body other than the head and neck.


  • Also known as acetylsalicylic acid
  • Used for many years as a painkiller
  • Has an anti-inflammatory action
  • Low-dose (75mg) is already recommended for people with known cardiovascular disease to prevent stroke and heart attack
  • Benefits for healthy people are still unclear
  • Can cause fatal internal bleeding, although this is relatively rare


The researchers from the University Hospital in Denmark say more research is needed to confirm and further explain their findings.

Studies in animals suggest NSAIDs may block the growth of early pre-cancerous skin lesions, but it is not yet clear if this is also the case in humans.

Scientists already suspect that these drugs may protect against many other cancers, including bowel cancer.

The researchers point out that although they found a link with prescriptions they were not able to monitor precisely how much of the drug a person actually took. Also, people can buy drugs like aspirin from a pharmacy without a prescription.

And they did not look at sun exposure – the root cause of skin cancer.

Experts say even if NSAIDs do offer some protection against skin cancer, people still need to be sensible in the sun.

Hazel Nunn of Cancer Research UK said: “By far and away the best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer is to enjoy the sun safely, and take care to avoid sunburn.

“Sunburn’s a clear sign that your skin’s been damaged, and this damage can build up over time and lead to skin cancer in the future. When the sun’s strong, use a combination of shade, clothes and at least SPF 15 sunscreen to protect your skin.

“There is mounting evidence that aspirin does reduce the risk of some cancers, but it’s too soon to say if this includes skin cancer. Aspirin can have serious side effects – so it’s important to talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits if you’re thinking of taking it regularly.”


Aspirin is as ‘good as warfarin’ for most heart failure patients

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News

Aspirin pills

Aspirin could be as effective as more expensive drugs for heart failure patients with a normal heart rhythm, according to researchers.

Their study on more than 2,000 patients, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said aspirin was as effective as the commonly prescribed drug warfarin.

It said each drug had risks, but they had similar benefits overall.

However, a UK cardiologist argued the risks from warfarin were less serious.

Heart failure is a major health problem in many parts of the world. It affects 900,000 people in the UK and six million people in the US. A failing heart struggles to pump blood around the body, meaning even trivial tasks become exhausting.

As the blood is not pumped round the body as efficiently the risk of a blood clot increases, if a clot blocks blood to parts of the brain it will result in a stroke.

Aspirin vs warfarin

Patients are treated with drugs to reduce the risk of a fatal blood clot forming. However, researchers said it was unknown whether aspirin or warfarin was the better treatment in the 75% of heart failure patients who still have a normal heart beat.

Researchers gave 2,305 patients, in 11 countries, either aspirin or warfarin.

Warfarin quite markedly reduces the risk of stroke associated with heart failure compared with aspirin, but at a cost of an increase in major haemorrhage”

Dr Andrew Clark British Society for Heart Failure

The combined risk of death, stroke and major bleeding was the same for each drug, according to the researchers.

Patients taking warfarin had a much lower risk of stroke, but had a high risk of bleeds. They said that after four years there was a “small benefit” with warfarin, but it was “borderline” and of “uncertain clinical significance”.

They concluded: “There is no compelling reason to use warfarin rather than aspirin”.

The lead researcher, Dr Shunichi Homma, from the Columbia University Medical Center, said: “Since the overall risks and benefits are similar for aspirin and warfarin, the patient and his or her doctor are free to choose the treatment that best meets their particular medical needs.

“However, given the convenience and low cost of aspirin, many may go this route.”

Balancing risks

However, Dr Andrew Clark, from the British Society for Heart Failure and the University of Hull, told the BBC: “The study shown here demonstrates that warfarin quite markedly reduces the risk of stroke associated with heart failure compared with aspirin, but at a cost of an increase in major haemorrhage.

“How to interpret that for individual patients means weighing the risk of stroke against the risk of haemorrhage, but also weighting that by importance.

“I would regard a gastrointestinal haemorrhage requiring transfusion as being of less importance than a stroke, so would tend in favour of warfarin.

“I would be more inclined to prescribe warfarin that previously, but the evidence is not overwhelming.”

The British Heart Foundation said both warfarin and aspirin had risks and benefits, but this study showed “neither has an advantage over the other overall in preventing stroke or death in the long term.”

Ellen Mason, a senior cardiac nurse at the charity, said: “This finding should give patients reassurance when discussing their medication with their heart failure specialist, and more freedom to choose the treatment which works best for them.”

Dr Walter Koroshetz, who is the deputy director of the US National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said the study would have “a large public health impact”.

He added: “Patients and their physicians now have critical information to help select the optimum treatment.

“The key decision will be whether to accept the increased risk of stroke with aspirin, or the increased risk of primarily gastrointestinal haemorrhage with warfarin.”


Aspirin taken daily ‘cuts bowel cancer death risk’

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News

Bowel cancer patients who take daily aspirin could cut their chance of dying from the disease by about a third, experts believe.

A study in the British Journal of Cancer looked at 4,500 bowel cancer patients living in The Netherlands.

All of the patients on aspirin were taking a low dose – 80mg or less a day – something already recommended for people with heart disease.

But experts say it is too soon to start routinely offering it for bowel cancer.

A wealth of evidence already suggests aspirin might prevent certain cancers from developing in the first place. And more recent work suggests it might also work as a cancer therapy – slowing down or preventing a cancer’s spread.

Anyone thinking of taking aspirin to cut their risk of cancer should talk to their GP first”

Sarah Lyness Cancer Research UK

But the drug can also have unpleasant and dangerous side effects, causing irritation of the stomach lining and internal bleeds in a very small minority of patients.

The findings

In the study, which spanned nearly a decade, a quarter of the patients did not use aspirin, a quarter only took aspirin after being diagnosed with bowel cancer, and the remaining half took aspirin both before and after their diagnosis.

Most of the patients on aspirin had been taking it to prevent cardiovascular disease-related problems like stroke or heart attack.

Taking aspirin for any length of time after diagnosis cut the chance of dying from bowel cancer by 23%.

The patients who took a daily dose of aspirin for at least nine months after their diagnosis cut their chance of dying from the disease by 30%.

Taking aspirin only after bowel cancer had been detected had a bigger impact on reducing mortality compared with when aspirin was taken before and after diagnosis – reducing death risk by 12%.

This may be because those who took aspirin and still got bowel cancer had a particularly aggressive form of tumour that did not respond as well to aspirin, say the researchers.


  • Also known as acetylsalicylic acid
  • Used for many years as a painkiller
  • Has an anti-inflammatory action
  • Low-dose (75mg) is already recommended for people with known cardiovascular disease to prevent stroke and heart attack
  • Benefits for healthy people are still unclear
  • Can cause fatal internal bleeding, although this is relatively rare

Lead researcher Dr Gerrit-Jan Liefers, of the Leiden University Medical Centre, said: “Our work adds to growing evidence that aspirin not only can prevent cancer from occurring but if it is there it can help prevent it spreading.”

He said aspirin should not be seen as an alternative to other treatments, such as chemotherapy, but could be a useful additional treatment.

“It’s possible that some older people may have other health problems which mean that they are not well enough to have chemotherapy. Bowel cancer is more common in older people so these results could be a big advance in treatment of the disease, particularly in this group. But we need further research to confirm this.”

He said they now planned to hold a randomised controlled trial – the “gold standard” in medical research – to look at how well aspirin fared against a dummy drug in people aged over 70 with bowel cancer.

Sarah Lyness of Cancer Research UK said: “This latest study adds to the growing evidence about the benefits of aspirin.

“But we are not yet at the point where we would recommend people start taking aspirin to reduce their chances of developing cancer.

“There are still questions we need to answer about the side effects, such as internal bleeding, who might benefit most from taking aspirin, who might be harmed, what dose and how long people some people might want to take it for.

“Anyone thinking of taking aspirin to cut their risk of cancer should talk to their GP first. People with cancer should be aware that aspirin can increase the chances of complications before surgery or other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, and should discuss this with their specialist.

“In the meantime, there are many ways we can take to lower our risk of developing cancer – not smoking, cutting back on alcohol and keeping a healthy weight can help stack the odds in our favour.”


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