The new study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found more evidence linking daily aspirin to fewer cancer deaths, but suggests the reduced risk may be smaller than initially thought.
For the current study, American Cancer Society researchers led by Eric J. Jacobs, PhD, looked at the potential effect of daily aspirin use on cancer deaths. Jacobs’ team used data from the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, part of a larger long-term study on the effects of lifestyle factors on mortality.
This study included more than 100,000 men and women without a history of cancer, some of whom were taking aspirin daily. Of the study participants, 5 138 eventually died from cancer.
Aspirin use was associated with an up to 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer, which, however, was less than that seen in another recent study, the researchers noted. In that analysis of randomised trials (where people were randomly assigned to either take aspirin or not take aspirin), aspirin use reduced cancer deaths by 37 percent during five years of follow-up and 15 percent during 10 years of follow-up, the authors noted in the report.
“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,” said Jacobs.
“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,’ said Jacobs.
Dr John Baron, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, who authored an accompanying journal editorial, said, “It’s a remarkable idea that something that’s in medicine cabinets around the world, and has been around for more than a century, can prevent cancer.”
The question is no longer whether aspirin prevents cancer, according to Baron, but rather whether the risks associated with aspirin are overshadowed by its benefits, he suggested. “But even the most pessimistic study shows a meaningful reduction,” he added.
But while the new study found an association between aspirin use and reduced cancer risk, because it is not a randomised, controlled trial – the “gold standard” for research – it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Source: EurekAlert!, HealthDay News