A new study finds taking aspirin for ten years could significantly reduce the risk of gastro-intestinal cancers – of colon cancer by around 35%, oesophageal and stomach cancer by 30%.
The UK study, based partly on clinical trials and published in the journal Annals of Oncology, finds ten-year use of aspirin could cut deaths from colon cancer by 40%, and oesophageal and stomach cancer deaths by 35-50%.
Aspirin’s potential health benefits are well established, but the new study has confirmed for the first time that those benefits in GI cancer prevention outweigh the negative impacts of stomach bleeding — potentially fatal in a small number of cases.
Says lead author Jack Cuzik of Queen Mary University of London, in a media statement: “Until our study, where we analysed all the available evidence, it was unclear whether the pros of taking aspirin outweighed the cons.
“Whilst there are some serious side effects that can’t be ignored, taking aspirin daily looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and will probably be much easier to implement.”
The study also found that while the exact, most helpful daily dosage is unclear, “the evidence shows people need to start taking a daily dose of 75 to 100 mg for at least five years and probably 10 years between the ages of 50 and 65. For the first three years, there’s no obvious benefit. Death rates were only reduced after five years.”
Other researchers have warned against over-use of aspirin to prevent cancer, saying it should be considered only in certain patients such as those with a family history of cancer.
The use of aspirin in cancer prevention and treatment is a key issue in cancer research. A current AGITG clinical trial, ASCOLT, is investigating the possible use of low-dose aspirin on improving survival in patients with certain types of bowel cancer.
This study is the first to evaluate aspirin as adjuvant therapy in established cancers, and is seen as one of the most important gastrointestinal cancer studies globally.