Can taking aspirin reduce my risk of cancer?

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, MD
Allergist & Immunologist
Researchers at Oxford University released findings about more than 20,000 patients from the UK who took a small daily dose of aspirin. They had a 25% reduction in their risk of dying from cancer, and a drop in death rates from any cause by 10%! One of the researchers also said that this study might have "underestimated" the number of deaths, if studied for a longer period of time. The risk of dying from cancer was reduced by 20% over 2 decades. The cancers that had the biggest drop included intestinal or colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and cancers of the esophagus.
Administration Specialist

Taking 162 milligrams of aspirin a day (that's two baby aspirin or half a regular) with a half glass of warm water before and after may decrease the risk of colon cancer, esophageal cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. And it probably lowers the risk of stomach, throat, and several other cancers. Aspirin does this by reducing inflammation throughout the body, although other mechanisms may be involved as well.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)
Three European studies published in Lancet analyzed more than 50 studies on aspirin and cancer and confirmed that taking a daily aspirin for at least three years reduces one’s risk of developing cancers. Those who did develop cancer tended to have less severe cases. The evidence is especially strong for preventing colon cancer; however, there is also compelling evidence for lung, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers. It’s quite possible that the cancer benefits comes from the aspirin-induced reduction in overall inflammation.
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Despite the evidence that aspirin has anti-carcinogenic properties, some important questions remain in regards to the dose that will produce a therapeutic benefit. It appears that a moderate dose of aspirin, such as those used in preventing heart disease, may be sufficient to prevent cancer. However, it is unknown if a higher dose is required to produce enough of a benefit in a large population over a long period of time. The risks and benefits have to be weighed very clearly, and routine recommendation for taking aspirin needs to be discussed with your primary care physician or your oncologist as higher doses may result in unanticipated complications.  
Baptist Health South Florida
Administration Specialist

Researchers have been looking at the potential cancer-fighting properties of an aspirin regimen for years. Some studies have shown that long-term aspirin use can lower the risk for dying of cancer.

Data based on a long-term study found that a regular dose of aspirin could save the lives of certain people with cancer. In some cases, the results were striking. The most significant decrease in death rates was seen in people with colorectal cancer who took aspirin regularly—about a 30 percent lower risk for death for men and a 31 percent lower risk for women.

Decreases in death rates were noted among women with breast cancer at 11 percent and men with prostate cancer at 23 percent. The study also found a drop in death rates among people with lung cancer who took aspirin.

The research team reviewed the medication regimens for nearly 130,000 men and women with and without cancer. They found the overall risk for dying was 11 percent lower for men and 7 percent lower for women who took aspirin regularly compared with those who did not. The risk for dying of cancer was 7 percent lower for women and 15 percent lower for men who took aspirin regularly compared with those who did not.

Results from some studies on aspirin and cancer formed the basis for guidance that recommends that, for some people, low-dose aspirin can be used to help reduce their risk for both cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. The guidance singles out people 50 to 59 years old who are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease as  a group that is likely to benefit with the least risk.

Although evidence has been quickly accumulating that aspirin works in reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease deaths it is good to remember that is you want to take a low-dose aspirin, especially if you have had cancer, you need to talk to with your doctor first.

Aspirin should not be seen as a preventive measure against cancer. A healthy lifestyle is the best preventive practice when it comes to heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. To reduce your risk for cancer, it is best for you to eat a healthy diet, maintain a normal weight, exercise, limit your alcohol consumption and—most of all—quit smoking.

Taking aspirin (see dose below) every day not only helps prevent various forms of cancer, including colon cancer, brain cancer, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer, it also slows the potential spread of cancer to other parts the body (a process called metastasis). Two major meta-studies found that low-dose aspirin reduces the incidence of colon cancer and gastrointestinal cancer by almost 40%, and reduces the risk of all cancers spreading by 35% to 40%.

This news comes after a close look at more than 100,000 people in a whole roster of studies and adds to the already good heart- and brain-health news (aspirin reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke) that has me taking 160 milligrams of aspirin every day—always with half a glass of warm water before and after to help protect against aspirin's possible negative side effects, including stomach bleeding. That dose is half a standard 325 mg aspirin. Remember to always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking a daily aspirin to see if it's the smart move for you, and to find out what dose you should take.

Continue Learning about Aspirin

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.