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Going against the Grain: Aspirin use linked to pancreatic cancer

In a finding that runs counter to prevailing wisdom, scientists have associated aspirin use with cancer of the pancreas.

Since past studies linked chronic inflammation to various malignancies, the researchers had expected the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin to suppress pancreatic cancer. Indeed, a smaller study in 2002 found that people taking aspirin had less pancreatic cancer than people not taking aspirin did.

Finding the opposite was "quite a surprise," says Eva S. Schernhammer, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who coauthored the new study. It appears in the Jan. 7 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Pancreatic cancer is uncommon but rapidly fatal, mainly because the early stages of the malignancy often go undetected and the pancreas is difficult to examine and treat.

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