July 2014
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Can Aspirin Lower Your Risk of Colon Cancer?

I’m one of those people who can’t really take aspirin. I actually have some in the house which I bought probably years ago now (which come to think of it probably needs to be thrown away by now), for emergencies, but every time I’ve taken it I’ve gotten a slightly sour stomach. Aspirin is known for stomach upset.

Back in the day when this was the main OTC pain reliever available, people pretty much just had to suffer through it if they were sensitive to aspirin but needed to lower a fever or take it for mild pain relief. 

But of course modern science spawned a bunch of other alternatives (all not without their own possible side effects of course) such as acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, Ibuprofen which is the active ingredient in Advil and naproxen sodium the active ingredient in Aleve, which is fairly new in the realm of pain relief.

It wasn’t too long before aspirin resurfaced after falling out of favor as a pain reliever though. But this time, about two decades ago, it resurfaced for its dual purpose as a blood thinner. Scientists began to recommend that those with heart problems may benefit from taking a daily aspirin as a moderate blood thinner so that their arteries and critical veins could remain free flowing of blood and not get clogged and cause events that could turn deadly.

There are still many today who pop an aspirin every day, regardless of what it might be doing to the lining of their stomach.  There are some that really swear by it, and are willing to take the risk of any other uncomfortable side effects in order to help preserve their heart health and perhaps even to lower their stroke risk.

Now there is new evidence that aspirin may benefit as a preventive medicine for another potentially deadly disease – colorectal cancer or cancer of the colon and rectal types of cancer.  The prevention may come at a low cost too, only of an aspirin every other day instead of every single day.

But why would aspirin, most well-known for its pain relieving and blood thinning properties, be good for preventing a deadly cancer like this?  It’s really not all that clear per the study that I could find. Perhaps it is some other function of the remedy that acts as an anti-cancer agent in the colon and rectum. 

It’s also puzzling because aspirin is a known digestive lining irritant. If anything, you would think it would increase the risk of colorectal types of cancer since it can irritate the lining of the stomach so badly that peptic ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding can develop over time. 

More to come on this I’m sure. It feels like there’s a missing link or the study may be flawed, because common sense says that aspirin really shouldn’t have this type of effect on these organs (of course there could be some major property of aspirin that I’m missing here). The data doesn’t lie either, so there may very well be something that is counterintuitive at work here.

 

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