Research at the MGH is interwoven throughout more than 30 departments, centers and units, and is conducted with the support and guidance of the MGH Research Institute. The Research Roundup is a monthly series highlighting studies, news and events.

New study finds low-dose aspirin may lower risk of cancer death

A new study from the MGH reports that long-term regular aspirin was associated with a lower risk of dying from various types of cancers.

Lead author Yin Cao, MPH, ScD, a researcher in the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit, and her team studied the health outcomes of approximately 86,000 women and 44,000 men who had been prescribed aspirin at various doses and duration over the course of 32 years.

The team found that the biggest benefit came from reducing colorectal cancer deaths. Men and women who regularly took aspirin reduced their chances of dying from colorectal cancer by a third. Women also reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer by 11 percent, while men were 23 percent less likely to die from prostate cancer. The benefit seemed to be greatest for people taking two to seven doses of regular-strength aspirin—325 mg per tablet—each week.

Cao cautions that patients and physicians should consider all potential benefits and risks before beginning any new aspirin regimens. More work is needed to weigh these potential benefits against the risks of long-term use, which include gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke.

Smartphone device accurately screens for male infertility

Male infertility affects almost half of the 45 million couples worldwide who have trouble conceiving, but current testing methods for male infertility can be expensive, labor-intensive and require testing in a clinical setting.

Seeking a way to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests, researchers at the MGH and Brigham and Women’s Hospital developed a smartphone-based semen analyzer. The device costs less than $5 and can accurately analyze most semen samples in less than five seconds from the privacy of your own home. The team also designed a user-friendly smartphone application to guide users through each step of the testing process.

To evaluate the device, the research team collected and studied 350 semen samples. Using the World Health Organization’s guidelines for sperm concentration and motility, the screening kit was able to detect abnormal semen samples with a 98 percent accuracy rate. The team also evaluated how well both trained and untrained users performed the infertility test using the smartphone-based device.

The device is currently in a prototyping stage. The team plans to perform additional tests before filing with the FDA for approval.

John Petrozza, MD, is a co-author of the study and director of the MGH Fertility Center

Read more articles from the 04/28/17 Hotline issue.