At last year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology GU Conference (ASCO-GU) researchers reported that men who took at least three aspirin tablets a week reduced their risk of developing or dying from advanced prostate cancer. The aspirin didn’t affect whether the men developed prostate cancer, just if it eventually progressed and became metastatic.
This aspirin study was a new analysis from the long-running Physicians’ Health Study, a longitudinal trial being conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Researchers analyzed data from 22,071 men from the study. During a follow-up of 27 years, 3,193 were diagnosed with prostate cancer, among whom 403 had lethal disease, defined as cancer that had metastasized or spread beyond the prostate or that resulted in death.
The analysis found that regular aspirin resulted in a 24% lower risk of developing lethal cancer after being diagnosed with an early stage of the disease, and a 39% reduced risk of dying from prostate cancer.
But aspirin had little effect when researchers looked at the overall incidence of prostate cancer among the participants. “It was after diagnosis of prostate cancer that there appeared to be a benefit,” said Christopher Allard, lead author of the study and a urologic oncology fellow at Harvard Medical School. “It doesn’t affect the incidence, but it affects the progression.”
He termed the findings “compelling,” but along with other cancer experts cautioned that observational study doesn’t prove aspirin’s protective role in the disease. Moreover, it isn’t certain what dose of aspirin was associated with the outcome. Dr. Allard said one hypothesis for the findings is that by inhibiting platelets, aspirin blocks tumor cells from metastasizing to the bone.
We should take note that previous prostate-cancer studies have yielded conflicting results on aspirin’s preventive benefits for prostate cancer.
Regular aspirin use is also associated with protection against colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease, but it comes with gastro-intestinal side effects including bleeding that can cause serious complications in some people.
Cancer ABCs urges that any man considering an aspirin strategy to prevent progression to an advanced stage of their prostate cancer should discuss risks and benefits with their doctors.
This study does not evaluate any risks or the benefits aspirin use might have on progression of already existing advanced, metastatic prostate cancer.
Joel T. Nowak, MA, MSW wrote this Post. Joel is the CEO/Executive Director of Cancer ABCs. He is a Cancer Thriver diagnosed with five primary cancers - Thyroid, Metastatic Prostate, Renal, Melanoma, and the rare cancer Appendiceal cancer