Low-dose aspirin may reduce pancreatic cancer risk

Low-dose aspirin may reduce pancreatic cancer risk

The heart healthy benefits of low-dose aspirin are widely known, but that’s not all this humble little pill could do to save your life. A growing body of research indicates aspirin may also help lower the risk of one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

A new study published Thursday by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health finds aspirin taken daily in small doses could lower incidences of pancreatic cancer by as much as 48 percent.

Pancreatic cancer kills close to 40,000 Americans each year and has a 5-year survival rate of only 5 percent.

“The thought that there’s something that could lower the risk of someone getting pancreatic cancer is remarkable and exciting to me as a physician who has patients who have gotten — and died from — pancreatic cancer,” said. “There’s very little we can do for most people that get pancreatic cancer.”

For the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers recorded information on aspirin use and medical histories of 362 pancreatic cancer patients and 690 patients who did not have the disease, between 2005 and 2009.

The researchers found that patients who took low-dose aspirin (75 to 325 milligrams) for six years or less had a 39 percent reduced risk for pancreatic cancer, while people who took it for more than 10 years reduced the risk for the disease by 60 percent.

The authors suggested that people with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer or other risk factors for the disease may want to consider a daily aspirin regimen to reduce their risk.

This new paper is one of several indicating that aspirin may safeguard patients from cancer. Other studies have shown aspirin can lower risk for ovarian, colorectal, stomach, esophageal, prostate, breast, lung and skin cancer.

So how exactly could this little over-the-counter painkiller be such an effective cancer-buster?

“Aspirin interrupts the inflammatory pathway in the body,” explained LaPook. “It turns out those same pathways look like they’re part of the pathways that can lead to cancer. If you interrupt those pathways, theoretically that might be the reason why you lower the risk for cancer. We don’t know that for sure, but that’s one thought.”

This promising research could also offer a new route for cancer treatments. “There’s also a suggestion that not only is there a role for aspirin in preventing cancer but possibly in treating a cancer like colorectal cancer,” he said.

However, taking aspirin long-term poses a number of serious health risks. “Aspirin can cause gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding, it can cause bleeding in the brain. These are potentially very serious complications,” said LaPook. “So yet again we say you have to talk to your doctor, you have to weigh the benefits. This is personalized medicine.”

Source: cbs news

Pancreatic cancer and diabetes may be linked


Australian researchers have found that there is an association between pancreatic cancer and diabetes, reports PTI.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne reviewed data from 1973 to 2013 to conclude there was a time-dependent link between being diagnosed with diabetes and pancreatic cancer. The review of 88 international studies to date, is the largest analysis on the topic published, researchers said.

Dr Mehrdad Nikfarjam, liver, pancreas and biliary specialist from the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne said pancreatic cancer was often diagnosed when at an advanced, incurable stage.

“This is an important paper that highlights for doctors and in patients with newly diagnosed diabetes without an obvious cause, a diagnosis of underlying pancreatic cancer should be considered,” Nikfarjam said.

“The study revealed the risk of pancreatic cancer was greatest after the diagnosis of diabetes but remained elevated long after the diagnosis. The presence of diabetes remains a modest risk factor for the development of a cancer later in life,” he added.

“The priority on screening should be on patients with new-onset diabetes but can later be expanded to long-standing diabetic patients,” said Nikfarjam.

“New onset diabetes is more prevalent in people over the age of 55. It may be important to consider screening all newly diagnosed diabetics for pancreatic cancer, particularly those without significant risk factors for developing diabetes in the first place,” he said.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Surgical Oncology.

Source: The free Press Release

Why Is Pancreatic Cancer So Deadly?


The pancreas secretes hormones and enzymes to digest our fats. One of those hormones is insulin, which prompts the body to use sugar in the blood rather than fat as energy. Its levels are low in diabetic patients, who suffer from abnormally high blood sugar.

Only one fifth of Americans diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive for a full year, according to the American Cancer Society, and it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the country.

How does the disease develop without noticeable symptoms and then kill so quickly?

To find out, we called Allyson Ocean, an oncologist at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers including pancreatic cancer. An edited transcript follows.

Why does pancreatic cancer kill so quickly?

Pancreatic cancer is typically diagnosed at a late stage because it doesn’t cause symptoms until it’s too late. Weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice [a yellowing of the skin due to toxic buildup in the liver]—those are the most common symptoms. They usually start after the tumor is a significant size. By then, chances are, it has metastasized [that is, spread to other parts of the body].

Only about 10 to 15 percent of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed when they could be considered for surgery. And the prognosis is poor even in patients who do have surgery, because it comes back about 85 percent of the time. At best, 25 to 30 percent of patients are alive five years after surgery.

When doctors do pancreatic cancer surgery, they take out 95 percent of the pancreas, including the tumor, and then they leave a small remnant of the pancreas in there that serves [the insulin-producing] functions.

If a person can live without a fully functional pancreas, then what, ultimately, kills most pancreatic cancer patients?

When most patients die of pancreatic cancer, they die of liver failure from their liver being taken over by tumor.

What precludes doctors from performing surgery on late-stage patients?

We don’t do surgery if the tumor has already spread outside the pancreas, because there’s no survival benefit in removing the tumor. We also sometimes can’t do surgery [when the tumor] involves the great blood vessels, the superior mesenteric vein and superior mesenteric artery. Those are the main vessels that come off of the aorta, the main artery in our body. If the tumor is wrapped around those blood vessels, then we can’t take it out.

Why is this particular cancer so aggressive?
Because of the nature of the tumor cells. They escape the treatments, they hide out, and then they come back. And they grow again and they affect the liver and then they kill people.

What are the biggest risk factors for pancreatic cancer?
The biggest known risk factors are smoking and family history—it can be a hereditary disease. Then there are some other more obscure risk factors, such as defects in the anatomy of the pancreas, but that’s very rare.

What factors affect how early a person gets diagnosed?
Depending on where the cancer is diagnosed in the pancreas, it can affect how soon it’s diagnosed. For instance, if the cancer is in the head of the pancreas, which is close to the common bile duct, and it grows and it causes obstruction of the common bile duct, a patient can get jaundiced. And then they could [show symptoms] sooner than someone whose pancreatic cancer is in another part of the pancreas, like the tail. They would not present with jaundice, so we would not have a clue that there was necessarily anything wrong with them.

What are some of main symptoms as the cancer progresses?
Unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting. Back pain is another one, because the pancreas is very posterior in the body. Back pain is also the most common complaint that patients go to an emergency room for, and most of the time it’s just muscle pain—it’s not pancreatic cancer.

What treatments are available if surgery isn’t an option?
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Sometimes we do both together. We are also using biologic agents now, meaning antibody therapy. There’s a drug called Tarceva, which is an antibody [or immune protein] against the growth factor that the tumor cell makes, and so it blocks that growth signal. It’s given in combination with [a chemotherapy called] Gemcitabine. In a large randomized clinical trial, [the combination of the two drugs] was shown to improve upon Gemcitabine alone.

Source: Scientific American