A research team at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, conducted a large controlled study, the results of which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research this week.
They studied 904 patients with pancreatic cancer and a further 1,224 healthy patients, all over 55.
Participants provided information on their use of aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and paracetamol.
Preliminary findings suggest that people who took aspirin at least one day per month were 26 per cent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who did not take it regularly.
No such benefit was found for those who took non-aspirin NSAIDS or paracetamol.
Dr Xiang-Lin Tan, a research fellow at Mayo Clinic, said: “This provides additional evidence that aspirin may have chemoprevention activity against pancreatic cancer,” although he noted that more research is needed.
Dr Tan also emphasised that people should not start taking aspirin for this purpose.
He said: “The results are not meant to suggest everyone should start taking aspirin once monthly to reduce their risk of pancreatic cancer.
“Individuals should discuss use of aspirin with their physicians because the drug carries some side-effects.”
Hazel Nunn, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Pancreatic cancer causes nearly 8,000 deaths in the UK each year, and people can reduce their risk by being a non-smoker and keeping a healthy body weight. The jury is still out on whether regularly using aspirin could also lower the risk of this disease.
“Aspirin may have an important role to play in reducing deaths from cancer, but it can cause serious side-effects. We still need to determine who it can help, how much they should take and for how long.”
- Tan, X-L et al. Aspirin, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) acetaminophen and risk of pancreatic cancer.AACR 102nd Annual Meeting 2001. Abstract 1902.
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