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Long-term use of aspirin linked to reduced risk of developing bile duct cancer

The humble aspirin – used regularly and long-term – has the potential to decrease the risk of developing bile duct cancer, new research has found.

The humble aspirin – used regularly and long-term – has the potential to decrease the risk of developing bile duct cancer, new research has found.

A study at a Minnesota hospital in the US, involving 2,395 cancer patients and 4,769 healthy controls, found aspirin takers had up to a 3.6-fold reduced likelihood of developing the disease, which is also known as cholangiocarcinoma.

Factors known to increase the risk of cancer include smoking, diabetes, cirrhosis, hepatitis B infection and primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic disease of the liver.

Researchers also believe their study has shown that bile duct cancer subtypes are actually distinct diseases in their own right.

‘Chronic persistent inflammation is one of the key elements that promotes cancer of the bile ducts,’ said lead author Jonggi Choi. ‘Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory agent and may reduce the risk of bile duct cancer by reducing inflammation through inhibition of the cyclooxygenase enzyme.

‘Previous studies have shown that aspirin also blocks additional biological pathways that promote cancer development,’ Dr Choi added.

The American study provides ‘first evidence’ of the potentially beneficial effects of aspirin to counter bile duct cancer, although clinical trials – particularly in populations at high risk of bile duct cancer – are needed before it can be recommended as a chemopreventive agent.

Reference

Choi J et al (2016) Risk factors for cholangiocarcinoma: aspirin-use and the risk of cholangiocarcinoma. Hepatology.

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