Aspirin and Statins for Prostate Cancer

Photo by Stockbyte - Getty Images
Photo by Stockbyte - Getty Images. Photo by Stockbyte - Getty Images

If a man wants to tilt his odds in favor of a longer life, he wears a seat belt, eats a good diet, gets an annual medical checkup, does physical exercise on a regular basis and gets married.  Yes, you read correctly, he gets married.  The November 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that the risk of dying from prostate cancer was 25% lower in married men compared to single men.

As interesting as matrimonial issues are, I’m going to avoid any further discussion about the pros and cons of wedlock and its impact on longevity.  I do, however, want to address a far simpler means to the same end—aspirin and cholesterol pills.  Aspirin is ubiquitous in our lives.  It can be obtained over-the-counter and is well-known to be beneficial for reducing cardiac risk - lowering heart attack rates by about 30%.  However, beyond the cardiac benefits, two articles published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicate that aspirin is also beneficial for men who have prostate cancer.  In the October 2012 issue, Dr. Kevin Choe reported that the ten-year prostate cancer specific mortality was only 4% in men with High-Risk prostate cancer who took aspirin compared to 19% in the High-Risk men who did not.  In this same study, men with Intermediate-Risk prostate cancer also benefited from taking aspirin; their mortality was reduced from 6% down to 3%.

  The other article published in November 2014, by Dr. Eric Jacobs also evaluated the value of low-dose aspirin therapy in men with High-Risk prostate cancer.  In his study the prostate cancer mortality rate was reduced 40% compared to the men who did not take aspirin.

Another strong consideration for longevity enhancement in men with prostate cancer is statin drugs, otherwise known as cholesterol pills.

In Poster 2491, authored by Dr. Henry Soo-Min Park from Yale and presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) in 2014, cancer relapse rates were reduced by 25% by taking cholesterol pills. His study was based on the compilation of 17 observational studies involving 30,000 patients. Seven of the studies evaluated men who were treated with radiation, nine evaluated men treated with surgery and one evaluated both radiation and surgery.  Cholesterol pills reduced cancer relapse rates after radiation but not after surgery.  These finding were very similar to another previously published study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2015:  In Abstract 5018 Dr. Grace L. Lu-Yao evaluated 22,110 high-risk prostate cancer patients, of which 1,365 died of prostate cancer.  The use of a statin medication in combination with metformin (a generic medication used to treat diabetes) resulted in a 43% reduction in prostate cancer mortality.

While aspirin and statins clearly appear to be beneficial, they are not completely risk free. With aspirin, for example, one out of 200 people can get a bleeding stomach ulcer.  People taking aspirin who develop black stools or heart burn should stop it immediately and get further medical evaluation.  Potential side effects from statin drugs include muscle aches and liver problems.  After starting a statin, men need to be warned to stop the medication if new muscle pains develop.  Blood testing to detect any liver abnormalities is also necessary.

According to the studies cited above, in addition to the cardiac benefits, aspirin and cholesterol pills appear to have substantial anticancer benefits for men with prostate cancer.  These two medications are inexpensive and readily accessible, though statins do require doctor supervision.  It seems prudent for men to discuss with their physician the possibility of initiating aspirin and a statin, especially when High-Risk prostate cancer has been diagnosed.

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