Aspirin may cut prostate cancer death rate

WASHINGTON — A new study indicates a simple aspirin may cut the risk of death for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Researchers crunched data on 3,193 men who participated in the Physicians’ Health Study at Harvard University and found that, while the aspirin did not prevent prostate cancer, it did seem to keep it from progressing into a lethal form.

“If it is true, it is a good finding for men who have prostate cancer,” says Dr. Thomas Jarrett, chairman of the urology department at both the George Washington University Hospital and the university’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Jarrett is a prostate cancer survivor with a keen interest in detection and treatment. He says this development is intriguing, and “not something that I would have obviously expected as a result of the study.”

No one is sure exactly how aspirin manages to prevent prostate cancer from turning deadly, and Jarrett says there is a chance other factors came into play during the study period.

Still, he says these are results worth watching, adding, “this is not an insignificant finding at all.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that 222,800 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in 2015, and about 23,540 deaths.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Prostate cancer is very common. And while it is the second-leading cause of death by cancer in American men — right behind lung cancer — it is important to remember that the death rate is high because so many men are affected.

Perhaps a more telling statistic: 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are alive today. The Cancer Society says almost 100 percent of patients survive five years, 99 percent survive 10 years and 94 percent make it to 15.

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