The next time you reach for a bottle of Aspirin to treat that headache, you might also be lowering your cancer risk, according to a series of U.K. studies published Tuesday. The three articles -- two published in the Lancet and the other in Lancet Oncology -- showed that daily consumption of Aspirin had short-term gains in preventing cancer and reduced the spread to other organs by 40 to 50 per cent.
It's a significant discovery, according to Peter Rothwell of Britain's Oxford University, who led the study. "This (study) was particularly important because it is the process of spread of cancer, or 'metastasis', which most often kills people with the disease," said Rothwell.
Previous studies by Rothwell showed that it would take at least eight years of continual use of Aspirin before there were any noticeable effects. However, after studying 77,000 patients to see how effective Aspirin was at preventing heart disease, he noticed a correlation between Aspirin use and cancer deaths -- or the lack thereof.
Those taking a daily low dose -- about 75 to 300mg -- of the painkiller had a reduction in the risk of cancer death by 15 per cent after five years, and that the risk decreased by 37 per cent for users who continued taking the drug afterwards.
Doctors have also recommended acetylsalicylic acid, or as it's better known, Aspirin or ASA in Canada, to those recovering from heart attacks of strokes. The drug has shown prevent clots and significantly reduce the blockage of blood flow, therefore lowering the chance of a reoccurring stroke or heart attack.
While the benefits of Aspirin are numerous, researchers in the U.K. and Italy are warning that the side effects of daily consumption of ASA have yet to be worked out. On rare occasions, Aspirin has shown to increase the chance of internal bleeding in the stomach.
Despite these concerns, the medical community is calling the discovery "another step closer to broadening recommendations for Aspirin use," according to a commentary by scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Aspirin has sometimes been referred to as the "Wonder Drug" for its wide application in curing ailments. Here's a list of things acetylsalicylic acid can do for you:
Aspirin doesn't make the pain go away, but it does lessen the pain felt from headaches. With headaches, your brain feels pain from something called prostaglandins, and to form prostaglandins you need an enzyme called COX-2. Aspirin lessens the production of COX-2, which means less prostaglandins -- and less pain felt by the body.
Much like the pain felt from migraines, Aspirin inhibits the enzymes needed for pain to be felt in problem areas like sore joints.
A heart attack is what happens when there's not enough blood flowing to the heart. Among other reasons, this can be due to obstructed arteries caused by plaque. Aspirin or ASA has been shown to reduce platelets from sticking together, which results in thinner blood that flows easier through narrower arteries.
Along the same lines, victims of strokes can also appreciate Aspirin's blood thinning abilities, since they help prevent the build up of blood clots. A stroke occurs when there is a rupture of blood flow in the brain, usually caused by a physical obstruction like a clot.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that affects women six months into their pregnancy. The sudden increase in the mother's blood pressure results in irregular blood flow to the placenta, blood clots and death of placental tissue that turn on clotting systems. Aspirin helps to control the blood: the thinner it is, the less likely clots will form.