Could an aspirin a day keep colon cancer away?
- Taking low-dose aspirin daily for at least five years reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 27%, according to a new Danish study.
- Taking nonaspirin non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for the same period reduces colorectal cancer risk by 30%.
- However, on the downside, aspirin and NSAIDs are associated with an increased risk of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding.
This study, which was led by Danish researcher, Dr. Soren Friis of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen, looked at database records from 113,000 people and concluded that regular use of aspirin or NSAIDs over at least five years significantly decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. However, it has long been a well-known fact that aspirin and NSAIDs increase the risk of GI bleeding. In a 2002 study from Denmark, researchers looked at database records from 490,000 individuals and found that regular use of NSAIDs increased the risk of GI bleeding 3.6-fold. They also found that as soon as people stopped taking NSAIDs or aspirin, their risk immediately decreased.
With respect to the recent study linking aspirin/NSAID use and a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, one major downside was the fact that researchers only looked at people who had received their medication via prescription. This seems to be out of sync with reality, considering that most people buy aspirin and NSAIDs over the counter.
Nonetheless, the results of the study are telling. It should be noted that in terms of GI bleeding, higher doses are increased with a higher risk. The researchers have suggested that individuals not start taking NSAIDs or aspirin as a way to decrease colorectal cancer without consulting a physician.
The full study is available online in the August 24 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.