Regular aspirin use is associated with a slower progression of early emphysema on computed tomography (CT) scans over the course of 10 years, according to research presented the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference.

With the exception of smoking cessation and avoidance, there are presently no known methods for reducing the risk of developing emphysema. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Lung Study enrolled 4,471 adults aged 45–84 without clinical cardiovascular disease from 2000–2002 and measured percentage of lung volume with emphysematous features (percent emphysema) on up to four CT scans performed over about 10 years of follow-up. Spirometry was performed in 81% of the study participants. Self-reported regular use of aspirin was defined as reported use of ≥3 days per week.

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Twenty-one percent of the study participants reported regular use of aspirin, 55% were ever-smokers, and 25% of those with spirometry had results indicating airflow obstruction. A significantly slower progression of percent emphysema over ten years was associated with regular aspirin use compared to those who did not use aspirin; this significance remained after adjusting for potential confounding factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, cigarettes/day, pack-years, and hypertension. Similar reductions in the rate of progression of percent emphysema were observed in ever-smokers and greater reductions were seen in individuals with spirometric evidence of airflow obstruction.

It is believed that aspirin’s mechanism of action in slowing the progression of early emphysema is due to the reduction of platelet activation or inflammation that may be involved in pulmonary vasculature. Additional studies on the use of aspirin as a preventative strategy in emphysema are warranted, the authors conclude.

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