The possibility that aspirin can reduce one s risk of certain types of cancer has been widely (and hopefully) studied for years. Now, a large retrospective report, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, adds to the evidence. Researchers have found that daily use of aspirin is associated with a decrease in cancer mortality especially among patients with gastrointestinal cancers.
In order to further investigate the possibility, a team of researchers from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta analyzed data from over 100,000 participants who had completed questionnaires, beginning in 1992. The survey found that between 1997 (the year when questions about aspirin use were added) and 2008, gastrointestinal tract cancer incidence fell by about 40% among regular aspirin users. (A much lower reduction, of doubtful significance, was found for other types of cancer.)
Lead researcher Dr. Eric J. Jacobs attributes the reduction in overall cancer mortality to a substantial reduction in mortality from gastrointestinal tract cancers and a small, but statistically significant, reduction in mortality from cancers outside the gastrointestinal tract.
Retrospective analyses should be cautiously interpreted, says ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. Yet this report does echo earlier studies finding a reduction in cancer incidence and death among aspirin users one that s especially significant for colorectal cancer." He notes, "Although this sizable study presents us with interesting results, the benefits should be balanced against the risks: As one editorialist has pointed out, aspirin is still a drug, and its use has a real risk of associated bleeding. Anyone who wants to take it to prevent cancer, or to reduce their risk of vascular disease, should first discuss this plan with their doctor.