Aspirin: Wonder Drug?

In antiquity it was known a tea made from Willow tree bark would alleviate pain, but it had unpleasant side effects. Early chemists worked to isolate the active ingredient by evaporating solutions to crystals which were then hand-separated as every chemical has its’ own crystal shape and color. It was then a simple matter to select the crystal for alleviating pain.

Finding new drugs continues in jungles where medical researchers talk to aboriginal healers to learn what they have found as they experiment uninhibited by regulations, bureaus and other modern impediments.

19th century chemists at the Bayer Company, in Germany, were the first to discover a way to make the active ingredient, salicyclic acid, and not destroy all the willow trees to make a commercial drug. Salicyclic acid is the oldest drug in medical commerce today.

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In the 20th century, aspirin was confirmed to reduce risk of heart attacks and strokes by studies of thousands of people who used it daily compared to those that did not.  Doctors began recommending patients take a daily half or quarter aspirin as regular doses of a full tablet could reduce blood clotting dangerously.  Clotting is the first function of blood in response to a cut or tearing of flesh.  Now studies are finding aspirin prevents other diseases, including Alzheimer’s so a “low dose” pill is now made and unfortunately called “baby aspirin.”  It should be dubbed “Daily Aspirin” as it is safe for daily use.

1,000 clinical trials of aspirin are conducted annually.  Aspirin slows or prevents one of our deadliest diseases: cancer!  While the mechanism is in debate medical scientists believe aspirin is dealing with the disease directly as inflammation is a sign of cancer.

Researchers speculate aspirin’s repression of platelets in blood, which cause bleeding, help the immune system recognize cancer and destroy it.  There are seven types of cancer where this has been observed:

Gastrointestinal:  In a trial of 130,000 adults over 30 years Harvard College of Medicine researchers found aspirin lowered the risk of colon cancer 31 percent for women and 30 percent for men when taken regularly.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports cancer patients using aspirin had a 29 percent lower death rate than nonusers.  And, colorectal cancer patients have a 47 percent lower death rate with daily aspirin!

Oregon Health and Science University researchers may have discovered the aspirin healing mechanism.  Platelets, the cells that clot, aid the spread of cancer by releasing chemicals increasing the growth of cancer cells causing a surge in proteins that boost tumor development.

By combining platelets with three groups of cancer cells: spreading metastatic colon cancer cells, non-metastatic colon cancer cells, and nonmetastatic pancreatic cancer cells the addition of aspirin to the regimen the platelets stopped stimulating cancer cell growth!

Prostate Cancer:  Researchers from Harvard Medical School found taking three or more aspirin tablets a week reduced death rates by 39 percent among men diagnosed with prostate cancer. The study also found the  risk of getting a lethal prostate cancer dropped 24 percent in men taking aspirin daily.

Pancreatic Cancer:  One low-dose aspirin daily reduces risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a study at the Yale School of Public Health.  Taking aspirin every day for only three years cut cancer risk by 48 percent!  Study participants who took aspirin in daily “low dose” to “full dose, from 75 to 325 milligrams, for 20 years lowered risk of Pancreatic by 60 percent!

Lung Cancer: Aspirin protects against lung cancer in smokers!  A Chinese study of more than 1,200 women published in the journal “Lung Cancer”  found women taking aspirin at twice a week for a month or more, reduced their risk of developing lung cancer by at least 50 percent when compared to non-aspirin taking women. The longer women used aspirin, the lower their risk.  Smokers appear to benefit the most: Aspirin reduced their risk of developing lung cancer by 62 percent.

Melanoma Cancer:  A daily aspirin lowers the risk of the deadly skin cancer melanoma in postmenopausal women by 21 percent when compared to women who did not take it. Stanford University researchers observed almost 60,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 and found that those women who took aspirin for at least five years lowered their skin cancer risk by 30 percent.

Head and Neck Cancer:  A single aspirin taken only once a month decreases the risk of head and neck cancer 22 percent, according to researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast who studied effects of aspirin and ibuprofen on head and neck cancers. They found aspirin was effective in preventing throat cancer, and that people from 55 to 74 who took aspirin weekly or even as little as once a month cut their risk “significantly,” which in studies of this kind means more than 5%.

Breast Cancer:  Aspirin cuts the risk of breast cancer by almost 50% in women with Type 2 diabetes, according to Taiwan researchers. The study of  149,000 women found that taking one low dose or half regular aspirin daily reduced risk by 18 percent, but those who took a full dose aspirin daily reduced their risk by 47%!

Aspirin is the first drug we isolated and synthesized.  It is amazing if not ironic we now find it works with the most dreaded class of diseases of our species: cancers.  That so many cancers respond is exciting as it indicates a perfect preventative drug like the one we created for poliomyelitis may be in our future!  Our near future.

Adrian Vance

Adrian Vance is a writer and producer of educational films, filmstrips and audio programs with over 325 productions from script to screen. See a partial list of my credits at . And, have written for ten national magazines, been on the masthead of two as an Editor, done a dozen books and am an FCC licensed broadcaster with ten years of on-air experience in radio and television. See my blog, "The Two Minute Conservative" at where you will find over 3200 daily pieces, enough material to produce 25 novel length books.

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