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New research: low-dose aspirin regimen can cut risk of pancreatic cancer

By Tony Pugh
McClatchy Washington Bureau

Washington - People on a long-term, low-dose aspirin regimen can cut their risk of pancreatic cancer nearly in half, according to a new study by researchers at Yale University.

People who took 75 mg to 325 mg of aspirin per day for six years or less reduced their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 39 percent, according to the study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Those who took low-dose aspirin regularly for more than 10 years saw a 60-percent risk reduction.

“Because about one in 60 adults will get pancreatic cancer and the five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent, it is crucial to find ways to prevent this disease,” said Dr. Harvey Risch, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn.

“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 said.

The study found that the earlier people began taking low-dose aspirin, the greater the reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Those who started three years before the study saw a cancer risk reduction of 48 percent, compared to 60 percent for those who started 20 years before the study.

But discontinuing aspirin use within two years prior to the study was associated with a threefold risk increase for cancer compared with continued usage.

“People who are developing pancreatic cancer have various physiologic changes, including taste disorders, starting to occur two to three years before pancreatic cancer is diagnosed," Risch said. "Such individuals are more likely to quit using aspirin. So it may be tricky to separate the various aspects of patterns of aspirin use and risk of pancreatic cancer."

Study participants were recruited from 30 general hospitals in Connecticut between 2005 and 2009. Fifty-seven percent were men, about 92 percent were non-Hispanic white. Nearly half were current or former smokers and 19 percent were diagnosed with diabetes within three years prior to the study.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute.

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