A new study has shown that a daily dose of aspirin can double the life expectancy of patients suffering from gastrointestinal tract (GI) cancer. Based on data collected from 14,000 cancer patients in the Netherlands, those who took the painkiller every day were twice as likely to still be alive after four years as those who didn't.
The link between this cheap, over-the-counter drug and cancer has been spotted before: a 2014 report suggested a daily tablet could improve cancer patients' chances of living longer and even prevent the disease from taking hold in the first place. "[Taking aspirin] looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity," Jack Cuzick of the Queen Mary University of London said at the time.
This new report, which analysed data from 13,715 patients who had been diagnosed with a GI cancer between 1998 and 2011, now adds to the previous findings.
Presenting at the 2015 European Cancer Congress in Vienna, a team from Leiden University in the Netherlands reported that 30.5 percent of patients used aspirin pre-diagnosis, 8.3 percent were exclusively post-diagnosis users, and 61.1 percent had not taken aspirin at all. Of these patients, 28 percent survived for at least five years post diagnosis, and those using aspirin after their diagnosis had double the chance of survival compared to those who did not.
Additional factors - such as gender, age, stage of cancer, treatments, and other medical conditions - were used to independently determine the impact of taking aspirin on the body.
"Through studying the characteristics of tumours in patients where aspirin was beneficial, we should be able to identify patients who could profit from such treatment in the future," lead researcher Martine Frouws said in press release. "Given that aspirin is a cheap, off-patent drug with relatively few side-effects, this will have a great impact on healthcare systems as well as patients."
Further studies are currently taking place to check for any noticeable patterns when the treatment is applied to different types of cancer. Only when the researchers have access to a lot more data will it be possible to recommend it to the wider public - one of the known side effects of aspirin to consider is an increased chance of internal bleeding, and researchers must be sure that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages before we all start popping aspirin pills every day.
"Now we would like to analyse tumour material from these patients to try and discover which ones would benefit from aspirin treatment," says Frouws. "Through studying the characteristics of tumours in patients where aspirin was beneficial, we should be able to identify patients who could profit from such treatment in the future."