Clinicians have long recommended that patients take aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for cramps, headaches, and to help reduce one’s risk of a heart attack. However, new research suggests that NSAIDs may assist with liver disease and a reduced risk of some forms of liver cancer.
All forms of NSAIDs work by reducing acute or chronic inflammation, which causes some forms of pain and leads to many chronic diseases later in life. By inhibiting different forms of the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX-1 and 2), which is vital to the body’s inflammation pathway, inflammation is blocked and pain is prevented or stopped. Aspirin, unlike other NSAIDs, renders the COX enzymes inactive irreversibly – that is until the body makes more COX enzymes.
Chronic inflammation has also been connected to some forms of cancer, like colon cancer, which may be prevented with an inflammation blocker like aspirin or an NSAID.
The researchers analyzed data on 300,504 men and women aged 50 to 71 years. Retrospectively, they assessed their self-reported use of aspirin or non-aspirin NSAIDs for a period of 12 months and their diagnoses of liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most frequently occurring cancer worldwide and the third most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide – and the rates are growing in the United States. Because early forms of the cancer have little or no symptoms, it often isn’t found until its later, more deadly stages.
After assessing all groups, the researchers found that those who took NSAIDs had a 37% lower risk of developing HCC and a 51% lower risk of dying from chronic liver disease. The researchers commented that the lower risk occurred regardless of whether the persons took the NSAID 2-3 times a month, 1-6 times a week, or 1 or more times a day. Aspirin use, in particular, showed a strong protective effect, perhaps because it irreversibly inhibits COX.
Though this preliminary research is very interesting, The Dr. Oz Show does not recommend taking an NSAID to prevent liver cancer or liver disease. Taking too many NSAIDs over long periods of time could increase your risk of hearing loss or gastrointestinal bleeding. More research needs to be done on NSAIDs before a definitive decision can be made that will affect how doctors will recommend what patients can do in order to prevent such a deadly disease.
Currently, the best way to prevent liver cancer and chronic liver disease is by taking good care of your liver. This involves eating a healthy diet and reducing one’s risk factors for liver cancer:
- Get vaccinated for chronic hepatitis B and C if you haven’t already
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid aflatoxin-contaminated foods, like some kinds of nuts
Obesity and diabetes have also been shown to be risk factors as well. You can also take care of your liver by frequently eating green cruciferous vegetables as recommended in our daily liver restart program.
Try these four other important ways you can reduce inflammation in your body, which include taking omega-3 fatty acids and getting lots of exercise.