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Daily Aspirin Shows Striking Benefit in Cancer Prevention

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It’s a very enticing proposition….that a single, over the counter pill can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as cancer. Are we there yet? Should we be recommending routine aspirin use even in people without significant cardiovascular risk factors? (click here for a great review of the biology of aspirin by Dr. Quesnelle.)

Recent studies support this proposition although as with most studies, the devil is often in the details. Two meta-analyses led by Peter Rothwell of the University of Oxford examined the effects of aspirin on cancer incidence and death. The first analysis looked at patient data from 51 randomized trials that compared daily aspirin use with control treatments to prevent vascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. They found that aspirin use reduced the risk of non-vascular death by approximately 12% compared with a control treatment and this effect was mainly due to fewer cancer deaths after five years of aspirin usage.

A second analysis looked at whether aspirin use had any impact on the risk of metastasis from solid cancers. Once again, the patients were participants in five randomized trials comparing aspirin with control treatments to prevent vascular events. In total, 987 new solid cancers were diagnosed among the 17,285 participants. Patients who received aspirin were 46% less likely to have cancer with distant metastasis than those using a control treatment.

The researchers also evaluated the impact of aspirin on a specific type of cancer called adenocarcinoma, which can arise in many different organs. They learned that:

  • Aspirin reduced the risk of adenocarcinoma that was metastatic at initial diagnosis by 31%.
  • When patients were diagnosed with cancer without metastasis, the risk of developing later metastases was 55% lower among the patients taking aspirin.
  • Aspirin also reduced the risk of death in patients with adenocarcinoma. 

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11 Responses to Daily Aspirin Shows Striking Benefit in Cancer Prevention

  • slimer says:

    One problem of aspirin use not mentioned in the article is this: What about patients on chemo that decimates platelets? Aren’t we told no aspirin because of bleeding/clotting problems? What happens if aspirin use as an anti-cancer, anti-met strategy becomes mainstream? Then aspirin use is OK?

  • Dr Cianfrocca says:

    You are correct. Some chemotherapy drugs can lower platelets and in those cases, aspirin use may not be advised. But every situation is different since aspirin is currently used for so many different reasons. Patients should always discuss all medications they’re taking with their oncologist.

    Dr Cianfrocca

  • FaithAndHope79 says:

    I wish I could take the advantage of aspirin. I am on Lovenox, but I will suggest my family members take it. Thank you Dr. Cianfrocca for the post.

  • Dr Cianfrocca says:

    I would recommend that your family members discuss it with their health care provider before they start.
    Dr Cianfrocca

  • roosty says:

    Dr. Cianfrocca,
    Can you tell me what the dosage was for these studies?
    My father is on carbo/alimta/avastin chemo for stage IV adeno and he is okayed by the doctor to take up to 81mg of aspirin a day.
    He is wondering if that is enough to really be effective?

    I am saying take it, I don’t see the downside.


  • Dr Cianfrocca says:

    That’s actually a large part of the problem, Shane. The studies used varying doses of aspirin and the optimal dose is unknown.

  • porseh says:

    is there any interaction between TARCEVA AND ASPIRIN?

  • Dr West
    Dr West says:

    No, at least not a significant one that we know about. There is no recommendation or warning about taking these two drugs together.

    -Dr. West

  • cards7up says:

    You also shouldn’t take aspirin if you have any gastrointestinal problems. I found this out the hard way when my PCP recommended the low-dose 81mg daily for athersclerosis and I have diverticulosis and it can cause bleeding or ruptures. Always check with your doctor,but sometimes it’s best to remind them of any conditions you have-as they don’t read your entire file upon seeing you. Take care, Judy

  • gharris says:

    Can you comment on the use of aspirin in place of or with fragmin?

  • Dr Cianfrocca says:

    Aspirin and fragmin together can be a problem as both can lead to bleeding. So if you’re taking fragmin (or any other blood thinner) you and your physician need to weigh the risks and benefits very carefully.
    Dr Cianfrocca

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