More ‘Good’ Aspirin News

Will the good news about the benefits of taking aspirin never cease?

New research suggests taking aspirin in your 40s could cut the risk of cancer later in life apart from the earlier suggestions it may help prevent heart disease. On the other side of the coin,aspirin has also been linked to a raised risk of ulcers and internal bleeding.

A study by Cancer Research UK has been published in the journal Lancet Oncology.  According to a report on the BBC.co.uk website, aspirin apparently blocks the effects of proteins which can trigger inflammation, and which are found at unusually high levels in several types of cancer. Previous research suggests people who take the drug are less likely to develop bowel, breast and possibly some other types of cancer. However, regular use of aspirin specifically for cancer prevention is not currently recommended because of the risk of side effects. Common cancers, such as prostate, breast, lung and bowel, tend to develop after the age of 60 – when the risk of aspirin causing internal bleeding is at its highest. Lead researcher Professor Jack Cuzick, from the Cancer Research UK Centre for Epidemiology at Queen Mary, University of London, said pre-cancerous lesions tended to start developing in the mid-40s.

Thus, taking aspirin around that time may be the best strategy for preventing that damage progressing to the full-blown disease. It would also carry a much lower risk of side effects than beginning to take aspirin 15-20 years later.  However, Professor Cuzick told the BBC: “Many questions need to be answered before we would advise regular use of aspirin for cancer prevention.

“Future research and more clinical trials are needed to better identify those people who are at high risk of developing cancers and at low risk of side effects, who will benefit most from aspirin treatment.”

Professor Cuzick said it was not clear a lower dose “baby aspirin” could achieve the same anti-cancer effect as the standard dose of 300mg/day. The researchers also found that taking aspirin in combination with other drugs known as proton pump inhibitors could help to lower the risk of stomach bleeding.

Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, said: “It’s too soon to recommend that people take aspirin to try and stop cancer developing because of the side effects.

“It’s important that any decision to take aspirin regularly is only made in consultation with a GP.”

Ellen Mason, of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), also stressed to the BBC it was too early for researchers to recommend taking aspirin to reduce the risk of cancer. “Currently the risk of bleeding outweighs the benefit,” she reportedly said. “Many thousands of people in the UK are prescribed aspirin because they have heart disease. “This research does not prove that they will also get protection from cancer at a low dose, but as they already need to take aspirin it would be reassuring if further research eventually shows an anti-cancer benefit.”

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Slowing the ageing process

Most of us do not feel our age, and like to think we are five, or 10 or even 20 years younger than our real years.

Nothing wrong with the above, of course. But usually – and sadly – whatever we ‘feel’ is not reflected in the way we actually look thanks to wrinkling skin, difficult to shake-off extra fat and the occasional memory lapse.

Don’t bury that feel-good factor just yet, however. According to American biochemist Bruce Ames showering our bodies with a little TLC and a daily dose of vitamins could slow the ageing process. He believes many ageing-related illnesses, from cancer to heart disease, could be linked to not taking enough common vitamins and minerals.

As a biochemist who invented one of the first tests for cancer causing substances, Bruce Ames in 1998 was awarded the US National Medal of Science for his ‘creativity, resolve and restless spirit of innovation’ by President Clinton. And despite being in his late-70s, he is still driven by research, overseeing experiments to slow the body’s response to time and gravity.

At an American Association of Advancement of Science’s conference in Boston a few weeks ago, Bruce Ames noted how studies showed that shortages of vitamins and minerals are linked to a host of ageing related diseases, including bowel cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes as well as prostrate and bowel cancers. He said his own work shows lack of nutrients may accelerate ageing itself.

Bruce Ames said he did not think that the decades of effort to improve people’s diets had succeeded in our fast food era. Instead, he proposes it would be easier to convince everyone to take a vitamin pill a day.

In some other news from the health front for us mature folks, a French study just published in the American College of Cardiology found that blood pressure drugs may help people who also suffer from irregular heartbeat.

One person in 20 aged over 70 suffers from irregular heartbeat, which can cause palpitations, shortness of breath and tiredness. And increase the risk of a stroke.

Involving almost 3,600 patients who had experienced irregular heartbeat or were at risk of developing it, the study found that those taking blood pressure drugs, or statins, were 61 percent less likely to develop the condition than patients not taking such medications.

Hope this all helps, folks. Live long, live well.