crabsallover highlights, key points, comments / links.
Cancer Research UK: What single research publication has most excited you recently?
Jack Cuzick: One of the things that came as a bit of a surprise – and we’re very actively pursuing now – is the publication from Peter Rothwell and colleagues about the fact that aspirin when taken regularly for a period of 5 years or longer appears to lead to about a 20 percent reduction in cancer overall – not just one type, but many types. The major effects seem to be in colorectal cancer, oesophageal cancer and maybe stomach cancer, but also some effects for other cancers as well.
I think this is really exciting, and we’re very actively looking at how this might be implemented – whether low dose is enough, what age you should start, whether the effects are as clear in women as they are in men, etc.
But something as simple as a daily low-dose aspirin could produce a 20 percent reduction in all deaths from cancer would be a huge step forward.
Cancer Research UK: So why is it that we’re not all being told to take aspirin on a daily basis to reduce cancer risk?
Jack Cuzick: Like all drugs, aspirin does have some side effects. The biggest concern with aspirin is gastrointestinal bleeding, and that’s been one of the issues where, when the benefits were only thought to be heart disease, they seemed to be pretty evenly balanced with the increased risk of GI bleeds.
Now with the additional benefit of cancer, the balance may be much more favourable, but again it is a concern, and one of the things that will be important if we are going to try and pursue this will be to identify who’s at high risk of bleeding so that those people would not be offered aspirin.
Instead we’d offer to people where the benefits clearly outweigh the side effects.