The recent study by Prof Peter Rothwell published in The Lancet has again suggested that aspirin could be a wonder drug, this time for cancer. Sounds helpful, but is it?
I start to wonder when actually you remember that this same professor warned against taking aspirin in 2010. He works mainly in stroke research at Oxford University and discovered that aspirin caused a seven-fold increased risk of stroke in elderly people. He actually warned that aspirin could take over from high blood pressure as the leading cause of stroke in the over 75s. He cautioned that “We can’t say with absolute certainty that there won’t be some unknown harm in taking aspirin for 30 years…”
This latest study was based on a re-analysis of around 90 previous trials but, as usual, we have to think about how the trials were selected. It seems that several trials, totalling around 66,000 people, found no protective effect from aspirin and were not included in the re-analysis. I don’t know how much difference that would have made – I am not a statistician – but it does make me ask ‘why?’.
Also, 75mg of aspirin is considered a ‘safe’ dose and the average dose of the trials included was way above that. One would have to question the long-term effects on the gut of long-term high dose therapy since we know the risk of internal bleeding at relatively low doses.
It seems that, as usual, the alleged benefit of aspirin probably comes from its platelet (anti-clotting) abilities. “The lack of dependence of this effect of aspirin on its systemic bioavailability suggests that it is platelet-mediated.” This suggests that other blood thinning elements like Vitamin E and fish oils could do a similar job.
Always pays to look at these headlines carefully, doesn’t it? You can see here and here where I have reported on aspirin stories before. My view is still that a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of antioxidant blood thinners like fish oil and Vitamin E are a far safer bet.