How Aspirin Might Affect Cancer Risk

Cancer risk was slightly reduced in patients who took regular low-dose aspirin

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) That handy headache remedy sitting in your medicine cabinet may have some other health benefits.

In a new study, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that regular low doses of aspirin may decrease overall cancer risk.

Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, led this study of more than 135,000 women and men. Dr. Chan is a gastroenterologist and the director of the gastroenterology training program at MGH.

Dr. Chan and colleagues analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Over a 32-year period, these studies collected data about health habits and outcomes.

People who used aspirin at least twice a week had a 3 percent lower risk of cancer than those who didn't, these researchers found. This finding was in part due to a 15 percent lower risk for gastrointestinal cancer and a 19 percent lower risk of colon and rectal cancer among regular aspirin users. Taking aspirin had no apparent effect on the risk of breast, prostate or lung cancer.

The US Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends aspirin to help prevent heart disease and colorectal cancer for many US adults. Before taking any new medication, discuss the risks and benefits with a doctor.

In an editorial about this study, Ernest T. Hawk, MD, MPH, and coauthors wrote that, "This finding is important because it suggests that aspirin use may complement (colorectal cancer) screening and may have an absolute benefit regardless of endoscopy status, a critical insight that few other studies have provided thus far.”

Dr. Hawk is vice president and division head for Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The study and editorial were published in the March issue of JAMA Oncology.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. Dr. Chan served as a paid consultant for Bayer Healthcare, which makes aspirin.

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Review Date: 
March 4, 2016
Last Updated:
March 6, 2016