You already know that taking aspirin can prevent heart attacks (or reduce their severity) but did you know that there's a connection between aspirin and cancer?
A new study finds that men with prostate cancer were less likely to suffer a recurrence or die of the disease if they took aspirin regularly—less than half as likely to die of prostate cancer over a ten-year period than were men who were not taking aspirin.
Previous studies have linked regular use of aspirin and other NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen) with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, and according to the National Cancer Institute, "more limited epidemiologic data show that NSAID use may be associated with lower incidence of or death from cancers at other sites, including the esophagus, stomach, breast, lung, prostate, urinary bladder, and ovary."
But before you add "bulk-sized aspirin bottle" to your Costco shopping list, know that the evidence is limited, and that other studies don't show a preventative link between aspirin and cancer.
There have been few gold-standard studies on the subject, and this quote from the New York Times coverage of the aspirin/prostate cancer study explains why:
While Dr. Choe said it would be "ideal" to conduct a large randomized study, doing so with prostate cancer patients would be very difficult, "because the natural progression of the disease is such that you won't know for 10 to 15 years and would have to follow people for many years." And little money is available for research on aspirin because it is cheap and easily available, he noted."
In other words, because drug companies can't hold a patent on aspirin and ibuprofen there's nobody who will fund research on them. So it's theoretically possible that cancer patients take super-expensive patented drugs that don't extend their lives as much as simple and cheap NSAIDS would? But there's no way to know since it's not profitable to thoroughly research the aspirin/cancer connection. Something to think about the next time you hear that there's "no research" backing an herbal or alternative remedy.
More about cancer prevention: