(SOURCE: MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL) – Long-term, regular aspirin use was associated with reduced risk of death from several different kinds of cancers, according to data presented here at the AACR Annual Meeting 2017, April 1-5.
“Accumulating evidence suggests that aspirin not only reduces the risk of developing cancer, but may also play a strong role in reducing death from cancer,” said the study’s lead author, Yin Cao, MPH, ScD, an instructor in Medicine, Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit, at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Previous research has shown that aspirin may prevent cardiovascular disease and some kinds of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends low-dose aspirin for adults aged 50 to 69, for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.
In this study, Cao and colleagues sought to further explore the role of aspirin in overall and cancer-specific mortality, examining aspirin use at a range of doses and duration of use. The researchers studied 86,206 women who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study between 1980 and 2012, and 43,977 men who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study from 1986 to 2012. They assessed aspirin use at baseline, then every two years after that.
The study findings showed that over the 32 years of follow-up time, 22,094 women and 14,749 men died. Of them, 8,271 women and 4,591 men died of cancer.
Compared with non-regular aspirin use, overall mortality risk was 7 percent lower for women and 11 percent lower for men who regularly used aspirin. Cancer mortality risk was 7 percent lower for women and 15 percent lower for men who regularly used aspirin. The researchers observed benefits at dosages ranging from 0.5 standard aspirin tablets per week to seven aspirin tablets per week.
The strongest reduction in relative risk was for colorectal cancer—31 percent for women and 30 percent for men who regularly took aspirin. Women who took aspirin had an 11 percent lower risk of dying of breast cancer, and men who took aspirin had a 23 percent risk of dying of prostate cancer.
Cao said the study helped confirm the growing body of evidence on the benefits of regular aspirin use.
“These findings suggest that aspirin’s established benefits in cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer reduction may extend to other common causes of death, including several major cancers,” Cao said. She said that while the study supports the long-term use of aspirin, patients and physicians should consider all potential benefits and risks, as well as individual health factors, when considering whether a patient should routinely take aspirin.
“We need to conduct additional work to balance these benefits against the harms of use, such as gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke,” she said.
Cao said the primary limitation of the study is that it is an observational study and, therefore, less definitive than a randomized clinical trial.
This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Cao declares no conflicts of interest.