Long-term aspirin use may lower gastrointestinal cancer risk

The reduced risk was largely due to fewer cases of gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer, rectal cancer, and esophageal cancer.

Long-term aspirin use may lower gastrointestinal cancer risk
Long-term aspirin use may lower gastrointestinal cancer risk

HealthDay News — Long-term, routine aspirin use was linked to a modestly reduced overall risk for gastrointestinal cancer, study findings presented at the American Association for Cancer Research indicate.

“Previous studies of aspirin and cancer have been limited in terms of their size, length of follow-up, or ability to examine aspirin use in the context of other lifestyle factors,” said Yin Cao, MPH, ScD, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston in an association press release.

To examine an association between long-term aspirin use and cancer risk, the investigators collected data from female patients (n=82,600) enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study in 1980 and male patients (n=47,650) enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study in 1986. Data on aspirin risk, risk factors for cancer, and diagnoses of cancer.

After up to 32 years of follow-up, about 20,400 women and 7,570 men developed cancer, reported the scientists. Among men, prostate cancer was excluded.

Men and women who took a regular dose of aspirin — 325 mg — two times a week or more had a lower risk of cancer overall than people who did not regularly take aspirin. The reduced risk was largely due to fewer cases of gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer, rectal cancer, and esophageal cancer.

Regular aspirin use was not associated with a reduced risk of other cancers. Specifically, no link was found between aspirin use and a lower risk of breast cancer, advanced prostate cancer, or lung cancer, noted the study authors.

Getting the biggest benefit from aspirin required taking it for at least 16 years. The benefit was no longer seen within four years of stopping it, found the researchers. The association of aspirin with reduced cancer risk was the same for women and men regardless of race, history of diabetes, family history of cancer, weight, smoking, regular use of other painkillers, or taking multivitamins.

“This strengthens the case for further research into defining subsets of the population that may obtain preferential benefit from regular aspirin use,” noted researcher Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

References

  1. Cao Y et al. “Long-term use of aspirin and risk of cancer.” Presented at: AACR Annual Meeting 2015. April 18-22, 2015; Philadelphia, Penn.
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