Could Aspirin Save Your Life?

Cancer mortality may be lowered with aspirin therapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The lowly aspirin is climbing to new heights of respect in the medical world. Its daily use is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Cancer also seems to stay clear of this common medicine once dubbed a "miracle drug."

A new study strengthens the idea that taking aspirin daily may lower a person's risk of dying from cancer.

Researchers caution, though, that the benefit is smaller than expected and unanswered questions remain.

"Ask your doctor about taking low-dose aspirin."

American Cancer Society researchers analyzed information about just over 100,000 people who took part in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Eric J. Jacobs, PhD led this new study.

"Although recent evidence about aspirin use and cancer is encouraging, it is still premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer. Even low-dose aspirin can substantially increase the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding," Dr. Jacobs said.

Most of the people in the study were elderly and didn't have cancer. They answered surveys about their aspirin intake and were followed for up to 11 years.

Swallowing aspirin daily was linked with a 16 percent lower overall risk of dying from cancer. This was among individuals who took daily aspirin for five years. Those who had used aspirin therapy for shorter periods of time also had lower risks.

Aspirin was linked to a 40 percent lower risk of dying from gut cancers - esophagus, stomach and colorectal. The regimen also lowered death rates from cancers in other parts of the body by 12 percent.

While impressive, these numbers are smaller than other recent studies have reported. The results of randomized trials suggested aspirin lowered overall cancer mortality risks by 37 percent.

Researchers in this study noted its limitations, including that it did not look at randomized trial data. A person's cancer risk factors were not taken into account.

"Decisions about aspirin use should be made by balancing the risks against the benefits in the context of each individual’s medical history. Any decision about daily aspirin use should be made only in consultation with a health care professional," Dr. Jacobs said.

This study was published August 10 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Financial information was not available. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 13, 2012
Last Updated:
August 14, 2012