Aspirin May Support Liver Health, Prevent Liver Cancer

December 3, 2012

PillsIt’s not the first time aspirin’s been linked to wellness and prevention: it’s been tied to lower rates of other cancer, is often recommended as heart attack prevention (and can be lifesaving when taken during a heart attack), and it’s been tied to lower rates of Alzheimer’s.

A new study found that those who took aspirin—dosage didn’t impact the results much—were 41% less likely to develop liver cancer, and 45% less likely to develop chronic liver disease than those who did not.

Unfortunately, those who have the most risk of developing liver cancer (people with Hepatitis and heavy drinkers) are at an increased risk of bleeds if they take aspirin regularly (plus—be careful about mixing over the counter drugs with any prescription drugs you may be taking). For everyone else, the risk is already low enough that the findings aren’t too helpful. The suggested follow up study aims to look at the cost-benefit of daily aspirin use for high-risk people.

What’s notable, though, is that unlike for heart health, where daily use is sometimes recommended, for liver health the study doesn’t suggest you would need that much. Rather, if your doctor says it’s okay to take aspirin, you may want to make that your first choice in over the counter pain relief (other NSAIDS did not have the same level of liver cancer prevention, and acetaminophen/Tylenol is hard on the liver).

Of course, as with all studies of this nature, more research is needed. It’s hard to establish more than correlation, or even firmly fix correlation when there are so many factors! But given aspirin’s general track record, if you’re not at risk for bleeds, have your doctor’s permission, and need a pain reliever, it seems to be the best choice in terms of possible long term benefits. Alternately, focusing on an antioxidant rich diet might offer some of the same benefits!

What do you think? Do these studies overhype aspirin, or is it a useful, been-around-forever, (unpatented!) medicine?

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