October's Wellness Topic: Reducing Risk and Living with Cancer
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Dr. Simeon Margolis
Reducing Risk and Living with Cancer

Aspirin is Good for More than Headaches
by Simeon Margolis

Many men have been taking low doses of aspirin regularly for the prevention of heart attacks. Now, a study in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology has reported another benefit of aspirin use: protecting against cancer recurrence in men treated for prostate cancer.

The study examined the effect of taking several anticoagulants — aspirin, warfarin, or clopidogrel — by men with localized prostate cancer. These men had been treated with either radical prostatectomy or radiation. The findings showed that among the nearly 6,000 men in the study, those taking an anticoagulant, mainly aspirin, were significantly less likely to die of prostate cancer. Over a 10 year period, 3% of the men taking aspirin died of the cancer, compared to 8% in the group not taking aspirin. Further, cancer recurrence and metastases to bone were also less common in aspirin users. And, the benefits of aspirin were especially great in men with high risk prostate cancer. This research confirms another study that found similar benefits of aspirin on prostate cancer recurrence (identified by a rise in PSA — prostate-specific antigen) or cancer that spread to other sites.

In addition, several other recent research studies have also suggested that the development of prostate cancer is lower in men who regularly take aspirin. And, a recent meta-analysis of 24 studies concluded that aspirin has a significant protective effect on prostate cancer, especially for advanced cancer. In other good news, even stronger evidence has shown that aspirin can prevent colon polyps and colorectal cancer.

One note of caution: because aspirin use is associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic strokes, men should only take aspirin after obtaining approval from their physicians.

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