Taking aspirin regularly lowers risk of colorectal, other GI tract cancers: 7 insights

The regular use of aspirin significantly reduces the overall risk of cancer, especially colorectal and other gastrointestinal tract cancers, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.

Here are seven insights:

1. Researchers analyzed 32 years of data from almost 136,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

2. Regular aspirin use was defined as taking either a standard or a low-dose aspirin tablet at least twice a week.

3. Those participants who reported regular aspirin use had a 3 percent absolute lower risk of any type of cancer than did those not reporting regular aspirin use.

4. Regular aspirin use reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by 19 percent and the risk of any gastrointestinal cancer by 15 percent.

5. No reduction was seen in the risk of breast, prostate or lung cancer.

6. Aspirin's protective benefit could be seen after five years of continuous use.

7. Researchers estimate that regular aspirin use could prevent close to 30,000 gastrointestinal tract tumors each year and could prevent an additional 7,500 colorectal tumors among U.S. adults over 50 who have endoscopic screening.

"We now can recommend that many individuals consider taking aspirin to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer, particularly those with other reasons for regular use, such as heart disease prevention, but we are not at a point where we can make a general recommendation for overall cancer prevention," says Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit in Massachusetts General Hospital's Division of Gastroenterology, and the senior and corresponding author of the report. "Our findings imply that aspirin use would be expected to prevent a significant number of colorectal cancers above and beyond those that would be prevented by screening and may have even greater benefit in settings in which the resources to devote to cancer screening are lacking."

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