Monday, December 02, 2013

An aspirin a day could help stop dementia say scientists as they launch huge study into benefits of the pill

It is already used to help prevent heart attacks and strokes, and now researchers believe the humble aspirin could also hold the key to warding off dementia and cancer.

The claim came yesterday at the launch of the largest ever study into the health benefits of the everyday medicine, which has long been thought of as a health-booster.

A study of 15,000 people aged over 70 will be the most extensive clinical trial on the use of aspirin to prevent disease in the elderly.

Research team leader Professor Mark Nelson, from Hobart’s Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania, Australia, said: 'Remember aspirin is an over-the-counter medication; you don’t need a doctor to prescribe it, you don’t need a doctor to tell you you’ve turned 70. So this is something that can be done very simply, very cheaply if we find that it’s an effective strategy.'

Prof Nelson said the study starts next summer and results are expected in 2018.

Millions of people who take the pill to fight heart disease or the risk of a stroke benefit from its effectiveness at thinning the blood and how it helps to prevent clotting.

It cuts the danger of further heart attacks or strokes by at least 23 per cent.

Research has shown regular users have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the main form of dementia.

Scientists believe its protective effect may be due to its anti-clotting action helping blood flow to the brain.

Prof Nelson said: 'There’s a number of reasons why it might. The number one reason would be related to stroke. If you have a stroke you knock out a large area of your brain and therefore your ability to think is affected.

'There is also the possibility of lots of what are called microinfarcts, which means small areas of brain getting knocked off very slowly.'

Research has also shown that aspirin may have a role in fighting cancer, particularly gastro-intestinal cancers.

Prof Nelson said: 'There’s some very good evidence around to suggest aspirin may prevent cancers, especially cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract.

'Now that makes sense because you take it orally so in aspirin you’ve got that natural component.'

In the study – in the journal Contemporary Clinical Trials – the team wants to establish whether the benefits of a low dose of aspirin outweigh the risks linked to its use.

Prof Nelson said: 'If you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke before, what’s called primary prevention, we really don’t know in an elderly population whether you’re more likely to get benefit from taking the aspirin, maybe related to stroke or heart attack.

'Or more likely to be harmed, because aspirin actually can cause an increase in your risk of haemorrhagic stroke, bleeding type strokes and it can also cause bleeding into the stomach.'

He cautioned about the 'catch-22' of aspirin, which can also lead some people to have a major stroke because of increased blood flow.

Alzheimer’s Society research chief Dr Doug Brown said: 'We already know that prescribed aspirin has the potential to prevent heart disease and stroke in people at risk of these conditions, and it would be an additional benefit if it could delay the onset of dementia.'

Dr Simon Ridley of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: 'Systematic reviews of previous aspirin trials have so far showed no evidence that the drugs can benefit people with dementia, but the studies done to date have been relatively small. Large-scale controlled trials could provide more conclusive evidence.'

He added: 'We look forward to seeing the results.'


Top surgeon calls for ALL women to be given Vitamin D to cut breast cancer

They used to put vitamin D in the butter.  I wonder why that stopped?  Deficiencies can be a problem

All women over the age of 20 should take a daily dose of  Vitamin D to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer, an  expert claims.

Professor Kefah Mokbel is writing to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to argue that making the ‘sunshine vitamin’ free on the NHS would save 1,000 lives a year.

He has already started handing out the pills to female patients at his private clinic. But he believes all women should get them – even those who have not been diagnosed with the disease.

Prof Mokbel said the measure would cost the NHS just 12p per woman per day – and claims it would spare thousands the agony of developing the condition.

‘I am calling for all women from the age of 20 to be given free Vitamin D supplements on the NHS because it is effective in protecting against breast cancer,’ he said.

‘It is established science that women who have higher Vitamin D levels have a better chance of beating the disease.

‘Studies also show that women with higher Vitamin D levels are significantly less likely to develop breast cancer in the first place.’

Every year 50,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer, and the disease claims almost 12,000 lives annually.

Prof Mokbel, a surgeon at the private London Breast Clinic, said: ‘My estimate is that at least 1,000 lives could be saved by supplementation a year.’

Vitamin D is best known for its role in helping build and maintain healthy bones. But scientists have discovered it is also essential for the immune system and regulating how cells divide. Both are key to fighting cancer.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States, ‘being “D-ficient’’ may increase the risk of a host of chronic diseases – including osteoporosis, heart disease, some cancers and multiple sclerosis – and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and even seasonal flu’.

Prof Mokbel said his tests showed that half his private patients were Vitamin D deficient, and a third were severely deficient.

‘I give Vitamin D to all my women patients at the clinic because the higher the levels, then the greater the protection from breast cancer,’ he added.

‘Vitamin D works by encouraging cancer cells to change to normal cells, and it also enhances the immune system. Another benefit is that it promotes the death of breast-cancer cells.’

Evidence that Vitamin D supplements may combat breast cancer has been building. In 2008, a Canadian study showed breast cancer patients with good Vitamin D levels were about half as likely to die from the disease as those with a serious deficiency. Norwegian and German studies have reached similar conclusions.

However, Jessica Kirby, of  Cancer Research UK, disagrees with Prof Mokbel’s analysis.

She said: ‘There have been a large number of studies about Vitamin D and breast cancer and it looks as if people’s Vitamin D levels don’t affect breast cancer risk. Trials in which people took Vitamin D supplements have shown no effect.’

Prof Mokbel, who is also an honorary consultant surgeon at  St George’s Hospital in South London, compared the situation  to the evidence on smoking and claimed action was needed now.

He said: ‘This is a low-cost, cheap intervention and there’s  no toxicity from taking it.’

However, NHS chiefs remain worried about the cost. NHS spending on Vitamin D supplements now tops £100 million a year, up from £28 million in 2004.


No comments: