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HEALTH REPORT - Aspirin and Pancreatic Cancer - 2003-11-11

Broadcast: November 12, 2003

This is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Researchers who found a possible link between aspirin and the risk of cancer of the pancreas say more studies are needed to confirm the finding. The pancreas is an organ near the stomach that is involved in the digestion of food.

Study leader Eva Schernhammer teaches at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Doctor Schernhammer says the finding does not mean that women should no longer use aspirin. She says the drug still has important effects. Many people take it to help prevent colorectal cancer, heart attack and stroke.

The finding came from more than eighty-eight-thousand women in a health study of nurses. The study lasted eighteen years. During this time, one-hundred-sixty-one of the nurses developed pancreatic cancer.

Here is what the study found: Women who took fourteen or more aspirin a week had an eighty-six percent greater chance of pancreatic cancer than those who took none. Women who took between six and thirteen pills a week had a forty-one percent higher risk. And women who took one to three aspirin a week had an eleven percent greater chance of pancreatic cancer.

The World Health Organization says seventeen-million people a year die of heart disease. By comparison, two-hundred-sixteen-thousand people develop pancreatic cancer. However, it is one of the most deadly of all cancers. Most patients die within a year.

The researchers reported their findings at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

A separate study found a possible danger for people with heart disease who stop taking aspirin. Researchers from University Hospital Pasteur in Paris reported about that study at a meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

They studied people who entered the hospital after a heart attack or other serious heart problem. All had taken aspirin every day for at least three months to help control heart disease. Aspirin thins the blood and can reduce the chance of a blockage in the flow to the heart.

The French researchers studied more than one-thousand-two-hundred patients. They found that fifty-one of them had a serious heart problem less than one week after they stopped the aspirin.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Phoebe Zimmermann.