Daily Aspirin Shows Striking Benefit in Cancer Prevention

Mary Cianfrocca, D.O., FACP, GRACE Faculty

Published April 20, 2012 | By Dr. Cianfrocca

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? 

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.

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. 

 


2 Responses to Daily Aspirin Shows Striking Benefit in Cancer Prevention

  • slimer says:

    April 21, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    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:

    April 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    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.

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