March 6, 2003 at 9:38 PM CST - Updated June 20 at 12:55 PM
Aspirin: A Colon Cancer Fighter? By: Wendy Ray
We've heard how taking aspirin can benefit the heart, but new research shows an aspirin a day may ward off one of the most deadliest kinds of cancer. Two separate studies show the benefit of taking aspirin to prevent the development of colon cancer in patients at high risk for the disease. Colon cancer survivor Bill McCormack says it's good news if it will save people's lives.
Bill says, "I was having a lot of pain and I went to the doctor. He sent me to the hospital and operated on me the same night." Bill and his wife Helen say it's a miracle Bill got to the doctor when he did. They were shocked to find out he had colon cancer. "They said you've got two months, maybe a year if you don't take treatment or do something," Bill says. Helen says, "When the doctor came out after the surgery and told me he had a short time to live, you can't imagine, unless you've been through it, what it's like."
Bill had polyps in his colon that backed up into his liver and caused tumors there. Doctors removed his colon, and chemotherapy took care of the tumors in his liver. Bill feels fine today, and is back to an everyday routine.
He's lucky. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. But a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports aspirin may ward off the deadly disease. People studied in the low dose aspirin group-those getting 81-mg per day-experienced a 20% reduction in the risk of precancerous lesions. And when researchers considered the most advanced lesions-the ones that were most likely to become cancer- the risk reduction jumped to 40%. They are not sure exactly how the aspirin works.
The McCormacks say it's great news, if it works. "It's the cheapest treatment you can get because aspirin don't cost much and if it helps that would be great," Helen says. Bill says, "I think it's great. If it wasn't for new things we're hearing everyday I'd be dead."
These studies were done with high risk patients. Now, there is no evidence that taking an aspirin will protect you from getting colon cancer. Colonoscopy remains the single best way to detect cancer early and improve your chances of survival. Everyone over the age of 50 should get tested.