Aspirin has been used as a medication to treat pain, fever and inflammation, but a new study shows that daily doses of aspirin could also help ward off cancer.

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Earlier studies have discovered that aspirin may decrease the risk of certain types of cancer, but scientists remain puzzled for years over how exactly the drug works to prevent the deadly disease, with many attributing it to the drug’s inflammation-lowering properties.

According to the new study, scientists from Veterans Affairs in Texas suggested that the pain-relief medication’s interaction with platelets, the blood cells that form clots to stop bleeding, could stop tumors from growing.

Normally, platelets can help form new blood vessels when a clot forms after a wound, but the same action can help tumors proliferate and survive.

The research, published in the February issues of Cancer Prevention Research, found that aspirin disrupts the normal clotting process by shutting down a key enzyme called COX-1, thereby blocking interactions between platelets and cancer cells and curbing the growth of tumors.

Some experiments used regular aspirins from a local drug store, while the new study used a special mix of aspirin and phosphatidylcholine (PC), a type of lipid or fat molecule found in soy lecithin, which is designed to ease the gastrointestinal risk associated with regular aspirins.

The study provided evidence that the enhanced aspirin complex, called Aspirin-PC/PL2200, possesses the same or more pronounced actions versus regular aspirins with regard to antiplatelet effects.

“These results suggest that aspirin’s chemopreventive effects may be due, in part, to the drug blocking the proneoplastic action of platelets and they support the potential use of Aspirin-PC/PL2200 as an effective and safer chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer and possibly other cancers,” said scientists in the study.

Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), is a medication used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation. Specific inflammatory conditions in which it is used include Kawasaki disease, pericarditis, and rheumatic fever. Aspirin given shortly after a heart attack decreases the risk of death. Aspirin is also used long-term to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots, in people at high risk. Aspirin may also decrease the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. For pain or fever, effects typically begin within 30 minutes. Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and works similar to other NSAIDs but it is also an antiplatelet and suppresses the normal functioning of platelets.

Common side effects include an upset stomach. More significant side effects include stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding, and worsening asthma. Bleeding risk is greater among those who are older, drink alcohol, take other NSAIDs, or are on blood thinners. Aspirin is not recommended in the last part of pregnancy. It is not generally recommended in children with infections because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome. High doses may result in ringing in the ears.

Aspirin, in the form of leaves from the willow tree, has been used for its health effects for at least 2,400 years. In 1853, chemist Charles Frédéric Gerhardt treated sodium salicylate with acetyl chloride to produce acetylsalicylic acid for the first time. In the second half of the nineteenth century, other chemists established the chemical structure and came up with more efficient methods to make it. In 1897, scientists at Bayer began studying acetylsalicylic acid as a less-irritating replacement for common salicylate medicines. By 1899, Bayer had named the drug Aspirin and was selling it around the world. The word Aspirin was Bayer’s brand name; however, Bayer’s rights to the trademark were lost or sold in many countries. Aspirin’s popularity grew over the first half of the twentieth century leading to fierce competition with many aspirin brands and products.

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications globally with an estimated 40,000 tonnes (50 to 120 billion pills) being consumed each year. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Aspirin is available as a generic medication. The wholesale cost in the developing world as of 2014 is 0.002 to 0.025 USD per dose. As of 2015 the cost for a typical month of medication in the United States is less than US$25

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