(NaturalNews) A study funded by Cancer Research UK on the effects of aspirin consumption and breast cancer was recently released, prompting a premature media frenzy on the supposed benefits of aspirin. In the reports that followed sensational headlines, there was very little mention of the weaknesses of epidemiological data, even less attention given to the known side-effects of aspirin and no column inches whatsoever allocated to the more effective natural methods of reducing inflammation.
"This is the first study to find that aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of cancer spread and death for women who have been treated for early stage breast cancer," said Dr. Michelle Holmes of Harvard Medical School, who led the study. "If these findings are confirmed in other clinical trials, taking aspirin may become another simple, low-cost and relatively safe tool to help women with breast cancer live longer, healthier lives."
The Journal of Clinical Oncology study analysed 4,164 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and found that women who took aspirin two to five days a week had a 60% reduction in the rate of metastasis and a 71% reduction in their chances of dying from breast cancer. Critics stressed that this study does not prove that aspirin has any effects on breast cancer. As with all epidemiological (population-based) studies, it only yields clues, not answers. Epidemiological data is not useful for making recommendations to patients, but to help researchers find the right questions to ask. These questions include:
-What sort of related behaviour is seen in women who take aspirin every day? Do they visit the doctor more often? Are they more likely to take other pills at the same time, eg. Multivitamins?
-What sort of social patterns distinguish these women who take aspirin every day? (eg. Are middle-class women, and those with better health cover, more likely to be the ones prioritising their day-to-day comfort and taking more aspirin?)
-Do women who take more aspirin smoke less? Do women who take more aspirin take less illegal drugs?
-How relevant is the anti-inflammatory effect of aspirin?
The validity of this last question is clearly worthy of discussion, especially as cancer is - like all chronic disease - related to inflammatory processes. It is therefore possible that the anti-inflammatory effect of aspirin may have helped reduce breast cancer. However, no data was released on the increased hospitalisation from gastric ulcers and other complications known to be caused by aspirin. Aspirin and related compounds were responsible for $5bn worth of sales in America in 2004, but drugs sold for their side effects totaled $4bn.
Predictably, there was no discussion of any natural ways to reduce systemic inflammation. The primary way to do this would be to optimise the function of the immune system, which means providing plenty of antioxidants, vitamin C and zinc. A further measure would be the introduction of omega 3 oils - fish oils and flaxseed oils - which have a reliable and measurable effect on all inflammatory conditions.
This study does provide interesting data for those with an interest in breast cancer. However, any benefit to patients from further study is likely to be diluted by the industry obsession with drug-based cures, whilst natural cures of equal or superior effectiveness are likely to be overlooked.
Marek Doyle is a London personal trainer, nutritionist and the pioneer of the Combined Allergy Test, with locations serving Kensington, Chelsea, West London and Basingstoke. Marek runs Blueprint Fitness, edits theAdrenal Fatigue Focus website and has been recognised as one of the top three trainers in the country and counts world champion athletes, models and TV celebrities amongst his clientele.