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Aspirin May Cut Cancer Deaths, But Caution Urged

Posted on December 7th, 2010

by The Associated Press

LONDON December 7, 2010, 08:09 am ET

A new report from British scientists suggests that long-term, low-dose aspirin use may modestly reduce the risk of dying of certain cancers, though experts warn the study isn’t strong enough to recommend healthy people start taking a pill that can cause bleeding and other problems.

In a new observational analysis published online Tuesday in the medical journal Lancet, Peter Rothwell of the University of Oxford and colleagues looked at eight studies that included more than 25,000 patients and cut the risk of death from certain cancers by 20 percent.

While some experts said the analysis adds to evidence of aspirin’s potential to cut cancer risk, others said it falls short of changing advice to healthy people, and it failed to show the benefits apply equally to women.

The trials mostly compared men who took a daily dose of at least 75 milligrams of aspirin for heart problems to people who took a placebo or another drug. On average, the studies lasted at least four years.

Researchers used national cancer registries to get information on participants after the studies ended, though they weren’t sure how many aspirin takers continued using it or how many people in the comparison groups may have started.

The researchers said that the projected risk after two decades of dying from cancers like lung and prostate would be 20 percent lower in groups who had taken aspirin and 35 percent lower for gastrointestinal cancers like colon cancer. These odds are figured from smaller numbers — there were 326 lung cancer deaths in all, for example.

Only one-third of people in the analysis were women — not enough to calculate any estimates for breast cancer. There appeared to be no benefit to taking more than 75 milligrams daily — roughly the amount in a European dose of baby aspirin and a bit less than the baby aspirin dose in the U.S.

The analysis left out a high-quality experiment that tested aspirin every other day in nearly 40,000 U.S. women. No reduction in cancer risk was seen except for lung cancer deaths in that trial.

No funding was provided for the new Lancet analysis but several of the authors have been paid for work for companies that make aspirin and similar drugs.

Scientists said it would take some time to digest the study results and figure out which people should take aspirin.

Eric Jacobs, an American Cancer Society epidemiologist, called it a “major contribution” and said the study results, in addition to previous research, suggested aspirin’s effects on the risk of dying from several cancers “appear likely.”

Others said the study wasn’t strong enough for doctors to start recommending aspirin.

“I definitely think we wouldn’t want to make any treatment decisions based on this study,” said Dr. Raymond DuBois, a cancer prevention specialist who is provost of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

One concern is that the studies were designed to look at cardiovascular risks, so the groups of people being compared may differ on things that affect cancer risk, such as family history of the disease. DuBois also questioned drawing conclusions about people’s cancer risk beyond the several years they were tracked.

Aspirin has long been recommended for some people with heart problems. But it can have serious side effects, like bleeding in the stomach and intestines, and poses risks in groups like the elderly who are prone to falls.

“Balancing the risks and benefits of aspirin is really important and probably something that needs to be done on an individual basis,” said Ed Yong, Cancer Research U.K.’s head of health evidence and information. He was not linked to the study.

“If anyone is considering aspirin on a regular basis, they should talk to their doctor first,” Yong said. He warned people should not think of aspirin as a guarantee against cancer and other prevention strategies like not smoking and keeping a healthy body weight were essential.

A U.S. health task force specifically recommends against aspirin for people with an average cancer risk.

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A Reflection on Tribute Dinner 2009

Posted on August 26th, 2010

by Heather Currie, 2009 Event Attendee

My mother passed away from colon cancer in January 2009, and my father invited family and friends to share a table at Cancer Services Tribute Dinner 2009 to celebrate her life. The tribute gift was a picture frame, so we searched through our cameras and in our photo albums for a suitable picture of my mother. Going through the pictures wasn’t easy, partly because it had been less than a year since she passed, making it hard to see so many photos of good times, knowing that there would be no new additions to our collections. And partly it was hard because every individual, my mother included, has so many facets that no single photo captures them completely. We found photos of her at weddings, holidays, and dressed up for previous Cancer Services dinners where her own parents had been honored for their battles with cancer. We eventually chose a candid photo of her from our last family vacation in 2007 because it showed her in her element – relaxing in a National Park, enjoying the peacefulness of sunshine, trees and family close at hand. It showed her not just living with cancer, but thriving with it. The picture and frame now sit on the piano where my mother often played. It is joined by bookends and a vase – three handsome tributes, from Cancer Services dinners, to amazing members of our family.
My mother’s battle with cancer is a story of living, surviving, and thriving, as many of them are. Despite all that she lost through cancer, she survived so much of it during her 11-year battle. It was her determination to thrive that has left an indelible mark on us and continues to inspire those who knew her. We survive her, but those who loved her have felt the loss deeply, but it won’t stop us from thriving. At the Cancer Services dinner, we were surrounded by people who knew well what it means to live, survive and thrive. Despite all of the loss, there was not a feeling of sadness to the event. There were a few tears (living, surviving and thriving isn’t easy, after all); the event, however, was a happy occasion, with much to celebrate. Those who have survived their battles with cancer, and those of us who have survived family members lost to cancer, have much to be optimistic about. The dinner gave us an environment in which to not only honor those who fight cancer, but to thrive because of them.

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