Researchers have found that taking aspirin can be connected to a dramatic reduction in bile duct cancer risk. According to them, people who take aspirin have up to 3.5 times lesser chances of developing the cancer compared to those who don't.
Bile duct cancer is uncommon, forming in the tubes of the internal organ responsible for transporting fluid in the liver. It mostly affects people older than 50 years and leads to symptoms like white stools, intense skin itchiness and eye and skin yellowing. Once it develops, the disease is aggressive, progressing quickly and becoming hard to treat.
In a study published in the journal Hepatology, the researchers used data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the Mayo Clinic Biobank and the Mayo Clinic Hepatobiliary Neoplasia registry.
According to Lewis Roberts and colleagues, continuous inflammation is one of the major contributors to bile duct cancer progression.
"[Aspirin] may reduce the risk of bile duct cancer by lessening inflammation through the inhibition of an enzyme called cyclo-oxygenase (COX)," said Roberts.
COX has been known to spur inflammation, so blocking it was seen as a way to address inflammation that aggravates bile duct cancer. Aside from COX, however, other cell-signaling cascades can also be blocked by aspirin to stunt cancer development.
The researchers are confident with the results of their work, given that there have been growing evidence pointing to long-term, regular aspirin use has been associated with reduced risk for different types of cancer, particularly those gastrointestinal in origin.
However, they have not established if it is safe to use as a form of cancer prevention. Additional research will have to be done before the drug can be recommended as part of a prevention plan for the disease.
The researchers' next steps include carrying out population-based studies to show that aspirin use does reduce the risk of bile duct cancer, as well as clinical trials involving aspirin and people at high risk of the disease.
Other authors of the study include: Jonggi Choi, Roongruedee Chaiteerakji, Hassan Ghoz, Esha Baichoo, Benyam Addissie, Thoetchai Peeraphatdit, William Harmsen, Janet Olson and Terry Therneau.