Aspirin is a drug originally used to alleviate low-and medium-intensity pain such as toothaches, headaches, and muscle aches as well as to reduce fever caused by colds and flu.
The findings of its good effects on inhibiting platelet aggregation and preventing thrombosis have promoted its wide use in preventing cardiovascular disease, preventing transient ischemic attacks, myocardial infarction, and after-surgery thrombosis.
Coupled with remarkable halo, doubts about potential side effects are cast on aspirin use. Some research found that long-term daily aspirin use would increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. In general, it is believed that the advantages of aspirin use outweigh the disadvantages.
The legend of aspirin still continues when more research has recently indicated its potential use in cancer prevention.
A recent nationwide study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that low-dose aspirin use could lower the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and liver-related mortality than no use of aspirin while without a low risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Previous clinical and experimental experiments indicated that aspirin may help prevent the progression of liver disease and liver tumor formation. The new research aimed to see whether low-dose aspirin use is associated with incident hepatocellular carcinoma, liver-related mortality, and gastrointestinal bleeding among a large sample of Swedish adults with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.
The researchers identified adults aged 18 years or older in Sweden with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C inflection who began taking low-dose aspirin (≤160 mg) between July 1, 2005, and December 31, 2013. The number of the eligible study population was 50,275, including 14,205 aspirin users and 36,070 nonusers. The data was collected from the Cancer and Cause of Death Register.
The results of the study showed that:
- for a median of 7.9 years follow-up, the estimated cumulative incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma among aspirin users was much lower than that for nonusers (4.0% vs. 8.3%).
- the adjusted hazard ratio for aspirin users decreased with an increasing period of aspirin use. The adjusted hazard ratio was 0.90 for 1 to less than 3 years of use, while the figure decreased to 0.57 for 5 or more years of use, as compared with short term use of 3 months to less than 1 year.
- ten-year liver-related mortality for aspirin users was lower than that for nonusers (11.0% vs. 17.9%).
- ten-year risk of gastrointestinal bleeding showed no significant difference between aspirin users and nonusers.
Potential gastrointestinal bleeding is always a concern for liver cancer patients when deciding to use aspirin for health enhancement. The results suggest that low-dose aspirin use is safe for reducing liver cancer and liver-related death, which could be good news for liver cancer patients.
This study provides an insight into the potential use of low-dose aspirin in lowering the mortality of liver cancer. Further clinical research is needed to confirm the effects of low-dose aspirin on the mortality of liver cancer patients.