Daily aspirin may help prevent gastrointestinal cancers

Daily aspirin may help prevent gastrointestinal cancers

19 Apr 2015

Long-term, regular aspirin use was associated with a modestly reduced overall risk for cancer driven primarily by a reduction in the risk for colorectal cancers, according to a new research.

“Although, previous studies of aspirin and cancer have been limited in various terms, our research provides critical information regarding the full constellation of potential benefits of aspirin use, at a range of doses, timing, and duration of use, within a large population of individuals,” said Yin Cao, MPH, ScD, a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Study design: 32 years of follow-up in more than 130.000 participants

In this prospective study, Cao and colleagues collected data on aspirin use, cancer diagnoses, and other risk factors from 82,600 women from the Nurses’ Health Study and 47,651 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.


After 32 years of follow-up, 27,985 incident cancers were documented. The analysis of the results showed that:

  • Study participants who reported consuming two or more aspirin tablets per week had a 5% decreased risk for overall cancer.
  • This decrease in risk was driven mainly by a 20% reduction in gastrointestinal cancers, including a 25% reduction in colorectal cancers and a 14% reduction in gastroesophageal cancers.
  • Long-term, regular aspirin use and increased doses of aspirin appeared to drive the reduced risk of cancer.
  • Significant risk reduction was seen only after 16 years of aspirin use and was no longer evident within four years of discontinuing use.

The researchers found no association between regular aspirin use and a decreased risk

for no gastrointestinal cancers, specifically, breast, lung, or prostate cancers.

Aspirin: more beneficial in cancer prevention

Senior study author Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Gastroenterology Training Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained that although aspirin has been shown to be effective in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes, among individuals with a prior history of these cardiovascular events, recent findings suggest that such benefits may not be as pronounced for individuals who are at low risk for heart attacks or strokes. Thus, “our findings suggest that for many individuals the potential benefits of aspirin for the prevention of cancer may actually merit greater consideration than prevention of cardiovascular events.”

Cao cautioned that despite these results, it is premature to recommend general use of aspirin for cancer prevention as physicians need to consider the potential risks of taking aspirin, including gastrointestinal bleeding.  Dr. Cao said. “The results of ongoing research to develop more tailored treatment based upon a personalized assessment of risks and benefits will be critical before recommending aspirin for chemoprevention of cancer.”


Source: eCancer News

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