A report recently published in the British medical journal The Lancet is making the claim that a daily regime of aspirin helps reduce the rates of cancer deaths. This unexpected finding was discovered during a study of 25,000 participants to see if aspirin was truly effective in helping prevent heart disease. If this claim is true, it is just one more thing this wonder drug can do.
Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a non-narcotic analgesic. It’s use in the relief of headaches and mild joint pain is well known. Aspirin works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins in the body. Prostaglandins are a body chemical that is necessary for blood clotting and also sensitizes the nerve endings to pain.
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, found the bark and leaves of willow trees helped in the relief of headaches, body aches and fevers.
In the 1800’s, a number of scientists started isolating the compound from willow bark and leaves that were responsible for these actions. The substance was found to be salicine. It was later found that if salicine was further distilled it would yield a compound known as salicylaldehyde. Further work with this compound yields salicylic acid. Salicylic acid was found to be hard on the stomach. In 1853 a French chemist, Charles Frederic Gerhardt found he could buffer salicylic acid with sodium and acetyl chloride, creating acetylsalicylic acid. This compound lessened the effects of salicylic acid on the stomach.
In 1899 a chemist working for Bayer, Felix Hoffmann, rediscovered Gerhardt’s formula. Bayer started marketing this wonder drug and as they say, “The rest is history.”
Uses of Aspirin
• Strokes: Aspirin is useful in patients who are experiencing an ischemic stroke. Aspirin is used in both the emergency treatment and in preventative treatment of strokes.
• Prevention and during a heart attack: To lessen the damage during a heart attack, emergency responders routinely give a dose of aspirin. Many patients who have at risk factors for cardiovascular disease are also advised by their doctors to take a daily dose of aspirin to lessen the risk of heart attack.
• Pain relief
• Prevention of cataracts.
• Control of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
This is just a short list of uses for this wonder drug. Cancer prevention is just one more thing that aspirin can do.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration