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Continued Use of Low-Dose Aspirin May Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Study: Longer usage led to lower risk

The longer a person took low-dose aspirin, the lower his or her risk for developing pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"We found that the use of low-dose aspirin was associated with cutting the risk of pancreatic cancer in half, with some evidence that the longer low-dose aspirin was used, the lower the risk," said Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut. "Because about one in 60 adults will get pancreatic cancer and the five-year survival rate is less than 5%, it is crucial to find ways to prevent this disease."

Men and women who took low-dose aspirin regularly had a 48% reduction in their risk for developing pancreatic cancer. Protection against pancreatic cancer ranged from a 39% reduction in risk for those who took low-dose aspirin for six years or less, to a 60% reduction in risk for those who took low-dose aspirin for more than 10 years.

"Older studies of aspirin use have been clouded by the use of [regular- or high-dose] aspirin for pain relief from conditions that themselves might be related to the risk for pancreatic cancer. Only recently have people been using low-dose aspirin for long enough times [to prevent cardiovascular disease] that the use might bear on risk of pancreatic cancer development," explained Risch.

"There seems to be enough evidence that people who are considering aspirin use to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease can feel positive that their use might also lower their risk for pancreatic cancer, and quite certainly wouldn't raise it," Risch added.

Study subjects were recruited from the 30 general hospitals in Connecticut between 2005 and 2009. There were 362 pancreatic cancer cases and 690 controls. Study subjects were interviewed in person to determine when they started using aspirin, the number of years they used aspirin, the type of aspirin they used (low versus regular dose), and when they stopped using aspirin, among other things. Confounding factors, including body mass index, smoking history, and history of diabetes, were taken into account.

Of the study participants, 57% were men, about 92% were non-Hispanic white, about 49% were former or current smokers, and 19% had been diagnosed with diabetes within the three years prior to this study.

A dose of 75 to 325 mg of aspirin per day was considered as low-dose aspirin (usually taken for heart-disease prevention), and a dose higher than that, generally taken every four to six hours, was considered as regular-dose aspirin taken for pain or anti-inflammation purposes. Of the participants, 96% of low-dose aspirin users and 92% of regular-dose aspirin users reported daily aspirin use.

Discontinuation of aspirin use within two years prior to the study was associated with a threefold increased risk for pancreatic cancer compared with continuing use.

Source: American Association for Cancer Research; June 26, 2014.

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