According to an American study, a low daily dose of aspirin could reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer or dying from the disease. The research was recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, DC.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School evaluated the benefits of aspirin on cancer risk in more than 86,000 women over 32 years and nearly 44,000 men over 26 years.
Participants in the study took research doses of the drug, around 81mg per day on average, for at least six years.
The study showed taking a low dose (81 mg) of aspirin for six or more years – from less than two tablets per week up to a tablet a day – was associated with a significant decrease in cancer risk, especially for colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancers.
Aspirin appeared to be most beneficial in reducing the risk of colorectal cancers, with a 31% reduction in women and a 30% reduction in men.
The risk of dying from cancer also dropped. Women who used aspirin were 11% less likely to die of breast cancer, while men had a 23% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer. Overall, those who regularly used aspirin were 7% to 11% less likely to die of cancer over the next few decades, the study reports.
When an injury or an illness causes chronic inflammation, lasting for months or even years, the environment can become ideal for many kinds of cancer cells to develop and thrive. The study authors explain that aspirin may help reduce cancer risk and the spread of the disease by blocking this mechanism.
People aged 50 to 69 years old with no increased risk of hemorrhage, and with a life expectancy of at least 10 years who are prepared to take low doses of aspirin every day (70 to 81 mg) are likely to benefit the most from this kind of preventative use, according to the latest recommendations from independent experts at the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
However, taking aspirin isn’t without risk, the study’s authors warn. Side effects can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. These risks increase with age, regular alcohol consumption and when taking certain other medications.
It is therefore important to see a doctor before embarking on a regular aspirin regimen, to help assess whether the benefits may outweigh the drawbacks in each specific case.