A recent US national survey revealed that more than 50 percent of the older adults are turning to aspirin to protect themselves from not only cardiovascular diseases but also from cancer, though the FDA does not recommend it to those who have not had a heart attack or stroke.
The survey revealed that aspirin use is continuing to increase among adults who are taking it more as a preventive mechanism or for “primary prevention” to any initial cardiovascular event, and in some cases to prevent cancer.
The survey has studied 2,500 respondents aged 45-75, and 52 percent of them reported current aspirin use.
“The use of aspirin is still a very contentious issue among medical experts. The support of its use in primary prevention is more of a mixed bag,” said Craig Williams of Oregon State University.
Besides cardiovascular events, some studies have suggested a role for aspirin in preventing cancer, especially colon cancer, and that has further increased interest in its use, said Williams.
The FDA has determined that in primary use to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, for every such event that’s prevented, there’s approximately one major bleeding event that’s caused, such as gastro-intestinal bleeding.
“But this survey clearly shows that more and more people who have not experienced those events and are not technically considered at high risk by the FDA are also deciding to use aspirin, usually in consultation with their doctors,” he said.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Ever since aspirin was invented in Germany in 1897, it has been used to treat a wide range of ailments – from headache to inflammation and as a means to stop the possible cardiovascular events. In 2013, some studies came out with the news that it may also prevent some cancers, particularly bowel cancer.
The link between aspirin and cancer was found in 7 trials on 23,000 people who were given it to monitor prevention of strokes and heart attacks, besides cancer.
The results showed a link between aspirin and a 34 percent reduction in deaths from all cancers and a 54 percent reduction in gastrointestinal cancer.
There were also benefits in terms of oesophageal, lung pancreatic and prostate cancers. But, the participants had to have been on aspirin for at least 5 years to get these benefits, said the 2003 study.
However, there was also an increase in the side effects of aspirin, like bleeding both into the bowel and brain, said researchers recently.
Stopping smoking, controlling weight, good diet and exercise, limiting alcohol and adopting sun protection measures in the summer are some of the best ways to reduce cancer risk, suggest studies.