Richard Dawson, the original host of “Family Feud,” and who was introduced to American audiences by the television comedy “Hogan’s Heroes,” died Saturday night from esophageal cancer at the age of 79. But, according to studies, a single aspirin a day could have reduced his risk of developing the deadly disease by up to 75 percent.
A 2010 study of more than 25,570 people published in the British journal Lancet found that taking a daily low-dose aspirin for 20 years reduced the risk of esophageal cancer by 60 percent. But a more recent study in March 2012 led by Dr. Peter M. Rothwell of the University of Oxford, found a whopping 75 percent reduction in risk.
Robin Gibb, who died last month at the age of 62, could have also slashed his risk of colon cancer by taking aspirin. People close to him, including his wife Dwina, believe aspirin could have helped him in his battle of “stayin’ alive,” according to the Daily Mail.
They could be right. British researchers at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford found that patients who took a low-dose aspirin reduced their risk of developing colon cancer over a 20-year period by 24 percent, and their risk of dying from colon cancer by 35 percent. Another study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that those who began taking aspirin after a diagnosis of colon cancer reduced their risk from death by colorectal cancer 47 percent.
Aspirin seemed to work best in people who have Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that increases the risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal. A British study at Leeds University found that taking two aspirins a day for two years slashed the risk of colorectal cancer by 63 percent in those who had Lynch syndrome.
And Gibbs may have been in the Lynch syndrome category that aspirin could have helped the most. His family had a history of colon cancer, indicating that his family could carry a rogue gene that makes them susceptible to the disease. Two of Gibb’s uncles died of colon cancer — one at 37 and the other at 61. And in 2010, Gibb underwent surgery for an intestinal blockage — the same type of surgery that was the cause of his twin brother Maurice’s death seven years earlier at the age of 53. Although his family begged him to have a scan, he refused until a year ago. By then it was too late: The scan showed he had colon cancer that had spread to his liver. He suffered several rounds of chemotherapy to no avail.
“There is good evidence that long-term regular aspirin use can also modestly reduce risk of colorectal cancer in people who do not have Lynch syndrome,” said Eric Jacobs, strategic director of the Epidemiology Research Program at the American Cancer Society.