Daily aspirin use linked to pancreatic cancer

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Although the medical and drug industries have tried hard to convince people that taking an aspirin a day can prevent heart attacks, they have been relatively silent about the potentially damaging side effects of the drug, including severe GI bleeding and ulcers. Now there's another side effect for them to ignore: a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer among women.

The study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Second Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

Researchers examined the relationship between aspirin use and the development of pancreatic cancer among the participants in the Nurses' Health Study. Among the 88,378 women who were initially cancer-free, 161 cases of pancreatic cancer were documented during 18 years of follow up. Aspirin use was first assessed at baseline in 1980, and updated biennially thereafter. Participants were classified according to a history of aspirin use.

A long duration of regular aspirin use (two or more tablets per week) was associated with a significant increase in pancreatic cancer risk. Women who reported 20 or more years of regular aspirin use experienced a 58% increased risk. The relative risk (RR) is the risk of developing the disease in the treated group compared to the risk in the control group.

Among women who reported aspirin use on at least two of three consecutive biennial questionnaires (compared to consistent non-users), the risk of developing pancreatic cancer was increased by nearly 86% for women taking 14 or more tablets per week (RR 1.86). The risk was increased by 41% for those taking six to 13 tablets per week (RR 1.41), 29% for those taking four to six per week (RR 1.29), and 11% for those taking one to three per week (RR 1.11). The results suggest that extended aspirin use may be associated with significantly increased pancreatic cancer risk among women.

"These findings, if confirmed, add another variable to the complex risk-benefit profile of aspirin," said Eva Schernhammer, M.D., of Harvard University Medical School, and lead investigator of.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2003, about 30,700 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and about 30,000 will die of the disease. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of death from cancer. About two out of 10 patients live at least one year after the cancer is found, but very few survive for five years.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, October 27, 2003.

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