Aspirin May Decrease Death From Prostate Cancer
Researchers suspect drug may help prevent spread of deadly disease
By Dennis Thompson
TUESDAY, Jan. 5, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Men who take aspirin regularly may have a lower risk of dying from prostate cancer, a new study suggests.
"We found that regular aspirin intake after prostate cancer diagnosis decreased the risk of prostate cancer death by almost 40 percent," said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Allard, a urologic oncology fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
However, he added, "It is premature to recommend aspirin for prevention of lethal prostate cancer, but men with prostate cancer who may already benefit from aspirin's cardiovascular effects could have one more reason to consider regular aspirin use."
The findings were presented Jan. 4 at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in San Francisco.
Since this was an observational study, no one can draw a direct cause-and-effect link between aspirin use and risk of death from prostate cancer, said Dr. Sumanta Pal, an ASCO expert and an oncologist at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif.
"These studies are certainly thought-provoking, but are best followed by formal clinical trials where we compare use of aspirin to either no treatment or perhaps a placebo," Pal said.
Still, Allard speculated that aspirin's ability to suppress platelets in the blood -- which is why aspirin can cause bleeding as a side effect -- might help explain how aspirin could prevent the lethal progression of prostate cancer.
"Platelets probably shield circulating cancer cells from immune recognition," he said. "By depleting those platelets, you're allowing the immune system to recognize the cancer."
Allard added that aspirin likely helps prevent the cancer from spreading to other areas of the body, such as the bone.
In the study, men without a diagnosis of prostate cancer who took more than three aspirin tablets a week had a 24 percent lower risk of getting a lethal prostate cancer. However, aspirin didn't affect the overall likelihood of being diagnosed with prostate cancer or even high-grade prostate cancer, Allard said.
Among men with prostate cancer, regular aspirin use after diagnosis was associated with a 39 percent lower risk of dying from prostate cancer. Use of aspirin before diagnosis didn't have a measurable benefit, the researchers said.