Can aspirin fight cancer? That seems to be what scientists from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and Oregon State University (OSU) are suggesting. The combined OHSU-OSU team didn’t invent this theory. Medical experts have been contemplating the idea for several years now. The research from these two universities has been geared towards shedding more light on the way aspirin prevents cancer and whether that knowledge can be used to develop more effective methods of fighting the disease.
Cancer is still a global threat, with the number of people dying from the ailment growing each year. And this is despite the emphasis the World Health Organization has been placing on early screening programs.
The Centers for Disease Control continues to tout the importance of initiating lifestyle changes as a means of preventing cancer. These include pursuing healthier diets, avoiding dangerous substances like tobacco, and exercising on a regular basis.
The idea of using aspirin to fight cancer emerged in 2015; the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) made the recommendation that low doses of aspirin could prevent certain types of cancer. Medical experts had been whispering about the potential for aspirin as a means of preventing cancer for years and USPSTF finally gave credence to those whispers by boldly proclaiming the theory, paving the way for the OHSU-OSU team and others to more aggressively pursue research in this area.
How Aspirin might prevent cancer
The researchers said in their report, published in the AJP-Cell Physiology journal, that low doses of aspirin were able to prevent certain types of cancer because of the way they affected platelets. It was a surprising discovery. Senior author of the study Owen McCarthy (OSU) thought that aspirin probably directly acted on tumor cells in some way, but that wasn’t the case.
Platelets are blood cells. They prevent bleeding when the need arises by giving the body the power to form clots. There is a protein in the body called c-MYC which not only supports the manifestation of cancer cells but promotes their spread. Platelets have a tendency to increase the levels of c-MYC in the body. That is problematic, especially when you realize that the body takes a very hostile approach to cancer cells when they first emerge, consistently attacking them.
Because platelets essentially protect cancer cells in these situations, they make it possible for tumors to grow and spread; this is where aspirin is supposed to come into play, inhibiting the platelets in question and preventing them from protecting or raising the levels of c-MYC in the body.
This revelation could transform the way medical professionals treat early cancer patients. Of course this is not the sort of information that individuals, especially those that have a particular fear of cancer, should attempt to utilize on their own in an effort to keep the disease away. It will take the knowledge of a medical expert to determine the amount of aspirin you need to take to prevent cancer; otherwise, on your own, you won’t be able to use the drug properly as a cancer preventive medication.