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Aspirin can boost progression of advanced cancer

Scientists from the United States (US) and Australia, said initiating aspirin in older adults with advanced cancer could increase their risk of disease progression and early death. The study is published in the ‘Journal of the National Cancer Institute’. Compelling evidence from clinical trials that included predominantly middle-aged adults demonstrated that aspirin may reduce the risk of developing cancer, especially colorectal cancer. However, this information is lacking for older adults, which are the findings of the new research.

The current study was conducted by a binationtradicts al team led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the Berman Center in Minnesota, and Monash University in Australia. The research involved 19,114 Australian and U.S. community-dwelling participants aged 70+ years (U.S. minorities 65+ years) without cardiovascular disease, dementia, or physical disability at the start of the study. Participants were randomised to aspirin or placebo and followed for a median of 4.7 years. In October 2018, the investigators published a very surprising and concerning report showing an association between aspirin use and an elevated risk of death, primarily due to cancer, reported the ‘Medical Xpress’. Senior author, Dr. Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, and his colleagues reported that 981 participants, who were taking aspirin and 952 who were taking placebo developed cancer. There was no statistically significant difference between the groups for developing cancer overall or for developing specific types of cancer. Aspirin was associated with a 19 per cent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer that had spread (or metastasised) and a 22 per cent higher risk of being diagnosed with stage 4, or advanced, cancer, however.

Also, among participants who were diagnosed with advanced cancer, those taking aspirin had a higher risk of dying during followup than those taking placebo. Chan is the chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at the MGH, Director of Epidemiology at the MGH Cancer Center, and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard. “Deaths were particularly high among those on aspirin who were diagnosed with advanced solid cancers, suggesting a possible adverse effect of aspirin on the growth of cancers once they have already developed in older adults,” said Dr. Chan.

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