Daily aspirin 'cuts the risk of dying from any type of cancer'
Daily aspirin cuts cancer risk overall by 16 per cent
20:00 GMT, 10 August 2012
Experts will need to study whether the benefits outweigh the risks of taking aspirin regularly
Taking aspirin regularly cuts the risk of dying from cancer but the reduction is smaller than researchers anticipated, a new study reveals.
It found daily aspirin led to a 16 per cent lower overall risk of dying from any type of cancer.
The reduction was found in people using the drug for five years and among those taking it for shorter periods of time.
However, previous research found an estimated 37 per cent cut in cancer mortality among aspirin users – twice as much as the current study.
But the latest findings are likely to encourage healthy people who want to follow the example of increasing numbers of doctors who now take daily aspirin for health insurance.
Millions who take low dose aspirin on doctor’s orders to prevent heart disease are also likely to gain from its anti-cancer properties,
For the current study, American Cancer Society researchers analysed information from 100,139 older participants over 11 years.
Daily aspirin use was linked to an estimated 16 per cent lower overall risk of cancer mortality, both among people who reported taking aspirin daily for at least five years and among those who reported shorter term daily use.
The lower overall rate of cancer deaths was highest at 40 per cent among those with cancers of the gastrointestinal tract such as oesophageal, stomach, and colorectal cancer.
There was a 12 per cent drop in death from cancers outside the gastrointestinal tract.
The findings are published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The reduction in cancer mortality observed in the current study is considerably smaller than the 37 per cent reduction reported in the recent pooled analysis of randomized trials.
The authors say their study could have underestimated or overestimated potential effects on cancer mortality if participants who took aspirin daily had different underlying risk factors for fatal cancer than those who did not.
However, the study’s large size is a strength in determining how much daily aspirin use might lower cancer mortality.
British researchers last year found daily aspirin can cut the risk of developing cancer by as much as 60 per cent in a study of people with a family history of the disease.
A landmark study from 16 countries suggested aspirin treatment could prevent up to 10,000 cancers over the next 30 years and possibly save 1,000 lives if taken by those with a genetic susceptibility to the disease.
But it was the first proof that the humble painkiller has a preventive action that is likely to benefit anyone using it every day, offering protection more than five years later.
Experts say healthy middle aged people who start taking aspirin around the age of 45 or 50 for 20-30 years could expect to reap the most benefit because cancer rates rise with age.
But there has been widespread concern that side effects such as stomach bleeding and haemorrhagic stroke would outweigh any advantage among healthy people.
Lead researcher Dr Eric Jacobs, lead researcher of the American study, said: ‘Expert committees that develop clinical guidelines will consider the totality of evidence about aspirin’s risks and benefits when guidelines for aspirin use are next updated.
‘Although recent evidence about aspirin use and cancer is encouraging, it is still premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer.
‘Even low-dose aspirin can substantially increase the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding.
‘Decisions about aspirin use should be made by balancing the risks against the benefits in the context of each individual’s medical history.
Any decision about daily aspirin use should be made only in consultation with a health care professional.’