Daily Aspirin May Cut Cancer Risk
Dec. 08, 2010 - For years, doctors have recommended a daily dose of aspirin to reduce the risk for stroke or heart attack. Now they may have another reason to suggest it: to help prevent cancer.
A study published in The Lancet found that low-dose aspirin (75 mg) taken daily for at least five years reduced deaths from certain cancers by more than 50 percent.
Although the researchers were encouraged by the findings, they stressed that the results did NOT mean all adults should start taking aspirin.
Aspirin does raise the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding in some people, a trade-off that doctors carefully weigh against aspirin’s ability to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
This study’s results, however, may tip the balance for aspirin, says lead author Peter Rothwell, M.D., professor of clinical neurology at the University of Oxford.
Dr. Rothwell and his team analyzed eight studies involving more than 25,500 people that had initially explored the role of low-dose aspirin in preventing cardiovascular disease. The study participants involved in the review were followed for four to eight years. Some were given low-dose aspirin during this period and others were not. The researchers tracked the participants for up to 20 years after that.
Two months ago, in October, the team reported that low-dose aspirin appears to lower the risk of dying from colorectal cancer by a third.
The updated analysis released this week found that low-dose aspirin also appears to protect against gastrointestinal cancers, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. Death rates for GI cancers fell the farthest—by 54 percent.
The researchers also found that higher doses of aspirin did not appear to boost the protective benefit. And although neither gender nor smoking history appeared to affect the impact of low-dose aspirin, age definitely did: The 20-year risk for death went down more dramatically among older adults in the study.
Given that result, the researchers say that people in their late 40s and 50s may benefit most from starting a long-term, low-dose aspirin regimen.
If you don’t currently take a daily aspirin, be sure to check with your health care provider before starting, advises Alan Arslan, M.D., at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Aspirin can cause side effects, including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain.
Choose a Low-Risk Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle can cut your risk for cancer—and raise your odds of surviving if you get it. Obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition cause about one in three cancers. Only tobacco use causes more.
Here are several things you can do to reduce your cancer risk:
• Eat healthy. Get at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables, and include whole grains in your diet.
• Get moving. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity.
• Control your weight. If you are overweight, make a plan to trim excess pounds.
• Don’t smoke. Talk with your doctor if you need help with quitting.
• Get screenings. Cancer that’s found early is easier to treat, boosting the survival rate.
• Limit your sun time. Cover up and use sunscreen when you’re in the sun.
• Limit environmental triggers. Avoid secondhand smoke, pesticides, and household products containing toxic ingredients.
Always talk with your doctor to find out more information.