Aspirin Could Reduce Gastrointestinal Tract Cancers

Using aspirin for long periods of time was linked to lower risk for gastrointestinal tract cancers in a retrospective, longitudinal study published in JAMA Oncology.

Using aspirin for long periods of time was linked to lower risk for gastrointestinal tract cancers in a retrospective, longitudinal study published in JAMA Oncology.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital examined two large cohort studies of healthcare professionals to examine the benefits of aspirin use overall. The researchers also wanted to examine what specific doses of aspirin could be effective in preventing cancers and matter during screenings.

There were about 135,000 patients (88,000 women and 47,000 men) involved in the study that reported aspirin use biennially.

The study authors noted the recent recommendation by the US Preventative Services Task Force, which dictated that the use of aspirin could prevent colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease among many US adults. However, there had been noted increased risks for other types of cancers with aspirin regimens.

Some of the patients were followed up with for as long as 32 years. Of the total patient group, cancer was detected in approximately 20,000 cases in women and about 7,500 cancers were detected in men.

Compared to patients who were not taking aspirin regularly, regular aspirin use was linked to a lower risk for overall cancer. The researchers said this was mostly due to a lower incidence of gastrointestinal tract cancers in the group taking regular aspirin, but there was minimal colorectal cancer, too.

This benefit was seen with the use of at least 0.5 to 1.5 standard aspirin tablets per week. The minimum duration of regular use linked to a lower risk of cancer was six years.

In patients aged 50 years or older, regular aspirin use could potentially prevent 33 colorectal cancer cases per 100,000 person years among patients who had not undergone a lower endoscopy.

Additionally, aspirin regimens prevented 18 colorectal cancers per 100,000 person years in patients who had undergone lower endoscopies.

“Aspirin may be a potential low cost alternative to endoscopic colorectal cancer screening in resource limited settings or a complement in settings in which such programs are already implemented, including the general US population, in whom screening adherence remains suboptimal,” the study concluded.

The researchers did add that no link was found between aspirin regimens and reduced risk for heart, advanced prostate or lung cancers.

In a related editorial, Ernest T. Hawk, MD, MPH, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center wrote that the most important contribution of this research is the study’s focus on the benefits of aspirin from a cancer-screening context.

“This finding is important because it suggests that aspirin use may complement colorectal cancer screening and may have an absolute benefit regardless of endoscopy status, a critical insight that few other studies have provided thus far,” Hawk concluded.