Researchers recently reported that men who took at least three aspirin tablets a week reduced their risk of developing or dying from advanced prostate cancer. However, aspirin did not affect whether the men developed cancer to begin with.
Another group of researchers found early evidence that a government panel’s recommendation against routine prostate-cancer screening may increase detection of tumors at more advanced states, when they are harder to treat.
The findings from these two studies were released on Monday, prior to their presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco later this week.
According to the American Cancer Society, last year, about 220,000 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the United States. This statistic makes prostate cancer the second-most common cancer among men, after skin cancer. About 27,500 men succumbed to prostate cancer in 2015.
In a majority of cases cancer doesn’t spread beyond the prostate gland is of little clinical consequence. In these cases, 99% of men are alive after five years and 98% after a decade. However, once the tumor spread to the bone or other parts of the body, the five year survival falls to 28%.
Researchers reviewed data from 22,071 men from the study. 27 years later, during a follow-up, 3,193 were diagnosed with prostate cancer. Among those diagnosed with prostate cancer, 403 had lethal disease. Lethal disease is defined as cancer that had metastasized or spread beyond the prostate or that resulted in death.
The research found that regular aspirin resulted in a 24% lower risk of developing lethal cancer after being diagnosed with an early stage of the disease. Additionally, regular aspirin was also found to reduce the risk of dying from prostate cancer by 39%.
However, aspirin had little effect when researchers looked at overall incidence of prostate cancer among the participants. The lead author of the study asserts that it was after diagnosis of prostate cancer that there appeared to be a benefit.
Researchers caution that although these findings are compelling, the study was observational and doesn’t prove aspirin’s protective role in the disease. Furthermore, it is uncertain what dose of aspirin was associated with the outcome.