Side effects and more side effects. It seems that's all we hear from Big Pharma's products. But here's some good news about a side effect of a very common drug that's actually good for you - a good side effect. An interesting study out of the University of Bergen in Norway just linked a prescription drug with lower cancer risk in Norwegian adults. The drug is one of the most common drugs prescribed, warfarin, also known as Coumadin.
This study examined national registry data from approximately 1.25 million people born in Norway between 1924 and 1954. The researchers compared people who were taking warfarin, an anticoagulant medication, with those who weren't, about 92,942 and 1.1 million people, respectively. They also separated out the people who were taking warfarin because they suffered from atrial fibrillation or flutter as a subgroup.
The researchers examined the data to look for correlations between warfarin use and cancer incidence and found that using warfarin was associated with a lower risk of prostate, lung, and breast cancer, three of the most common forms of the disease. The risk was actually lowest of all for the people using warfarin for a heart condition.
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So how in the world can coumadin prevent cancer? The authors of the study point out that the drug has two good side effects. First, it inhibits the tyrosine kinase enzyme system that many cancers depend on for development. And secondly, it actually makes certain cancer cells more susceptible to our immune systems.
So, should doctors immediately start prescribing warfarin to everyone just for cancer prevention? I don't think so. It turns out that taking warfarin only prevents 16% of cancers on average. We can do a lot better than that simply by staying in top cardiovascular condition, eating well, and getting to bed early. And this has none of the not-so-good side effects of warfarin, such as weekly blood testing, excessive bruising, and coronary artery calcification. But, if you have to take warfarin, it's nice to know that you're reducing your chances of cancer at the same time. That's a good way to start the New Year!
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD