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Aspirin Saves Life Even in Cancer Patients

h included investigators from Baylor College of Medicine and Duke University Medical Center, conducted a retrospective analysis of cancer patients treated for heart attacks at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2001. These 70 patients were divided into two groups based on their platelet counts, and data was collected on the use of aspirin, bleeding complications, and survival.

They found that heart attack patients with low platelets who did not receive aspirin had a seven-day survival rate of 6 percent, compared with 90 percent survival in those who received aspirin. Dr. Durand notes that there were no severe bleeding complications in patients who used aspirin. Conversely, patients with low platelet counts who formed a blood clot and were not exposed to aspirin died.

The beneficial effect of aspirin also was seen in patients with normal platelet counts. Seven-day survival was 88 percent in aspirin-treated patients as compared to 45 percent in patients who did not receive aspirin, the researchers found.

Durand observed that these deaths rates are abnormally high. "In the non-cancer patient with acute coronary syndrome anywhere in the United States, an expected seven-day mortality is less than 1 percent," he says.

There were parallel findings for those patients in either group who were treated with beta-blockers, which block the heart's use of adrenalin. The protective effect was not as strong as seen with aspirin, but was still life saving.

In those patients with a normal platelet count, 91 percent survived seven days when treated with beta-blockers, whereas 36 percent survived if they were not treated with the agent. In the thrombocytopenic group, 73 percent survived seven days when treated with beta-blockers, whereas only 13 percent survived if they were not treated.

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