Does Aspirin Lower Women's Cancer Risks?

Colorectal cancer risks lower in women who took aspirin on alternate days

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

(RxWiki News) Aspirin isn’t just for headaches anymore. The pain reliever is showing itself to be helpful in lowering some cancer risks, too. A new study looked at the long-term effects of taking aspirin to cut cancer risks.

Healthy women who took aspirin every other day for 10 years had a lower risk of colorectal cancer than women who didn’t take aspirin. 

According to this study, this aspirin therapy also slightly increased the risk of ulcers and gut bleeding. 

"Ask your doctor if aspirin therapy may be good for you."

Nancy R. Cook, ScD, a researcher in the Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, led this study which looked at the impact of taking aspirin every other day to lower colorectal cancer risks.

This study was a continuation of the Women’s Health Study (WHS), which ran from 1994 to 2004.

In the original WHS, 39,876 women were randomly assigned to take 100 mg of aspirin or a placebo (sugar pill) every other day.

At the end of the study in 2004, participants were asked if they would like to continue in a follow-up observational study. A total of 33,862 women continued in the follow-up study, which ran through March 2012. 

Participants in the follow-up study continued to take either an aspirin or placebo every other day.

The researchers found that women who took aspirin for an average of 10 years had a 42 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than women who took a placebo.

However, women in the aspirin group also had a 17 percent higher risk of ulcers and a 14 percent higher likelihood of gastrointestinal bleeding, the study found.

dailyRx News spoke with Eric Haas, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. "This study supports that the use of aspirin significantly reduces the occurrence of colorectal cancer in women," said Dr. Haas.

"It should be noted that these observations have substantial validity as they were collected during a long-term follow-up of over 10 years. The downside, however, is that aspirin increases the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers." he said.

Dr. Haas continued, "This study favors the preventive aspirin effects for colon cancer over the long run. Other measures have been shown to help reduce the risk of colon cancer such as eating foods high in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables and limitation of processed foods and red meats.”

This study was published July 15 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute funded the study. Bayer provided the aspirin given in the study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 15, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013