Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Aspirin the unsung cure-all?

We have all taken an aspirin for a headache, body pain or fever and found a sense of immediate relief. To many of us this magical pill may be how we get through our more hectic days. In hindsight, not much thought goes into the 500 mg pill other than pain reliever. However, what if I told you that recent studies have revealed breast cancer preventative properties of aspirin. Now before we all go reaching for our closest aspirin, some pros and cons need to be considered.
Aspirin (in low doses), has been shown to prevent cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, etc. for individuals with a 10% or higher risk. The caveat is that results have not been seen until 5-10 years of regular aspirin use. The recommended aspirin dose by the US Preventative Services Task Force is 75-100 mg because of aspirin's blood thinning abilities. Beyond that, the recent study by City of Hope showed that low dose aspirin (81 mg) can reduce the risk of HER2 negative breast cancer in women up to 16% if taken three times a week.
Only low dose aspirin was effective compared to the regular strength taken for headaches or pain. Interestingly, the way that low dose aspirin works is through its aromatase inhibitor properties (by blocking the enzyme that makes estrogen in post-menopausal women). This reduction in estrogen may reduce the likelihood of breast cancer developing. Moreover, aspirin reduces inflammation which can also decrease the risk of breast cancer developing or recurring. Aspirin, however, is not a treatment for breast cancer; rather it is a preventative measure against developing breast cancer in the first place or helping maintain remission.
Although there appear to be many hidden benefits to taking low dose aspirin, there are also health risks associated with it especially for individuals who are over 60 years old. This is because extensive aspirin use can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Exercise, diet and lifestyle choices are always the best preventative measures but if you fit within the non-health risk category, aspirin may be the choice for you! 


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