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Can Aspirin Reduce Cancer Risk and Mortality?

The prospect is too enticing to dismiss: a single pill—a cheap one, too—that, when taken regularly, can reduce the risk not only of heart attack or stroke, but also of developing or dying from some types of cancer. A reanalysis of many major trials with aspirin published in the premiere medical journal The Lancet in December suggests that aspirin results in major reduction in cancer mortality from many common cancers.

“This meta-analysis”, explains Dr. Jonathan Bender, “found that after 5 years of follow-up, trial participants who took aspirin daily—regardless of dose—for a mean of 4 years had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying from cancer compared with participants who took a placebo. The largest decrease in risk was for gastrointestinal cancers. The longer the duration of aspirin use in the trials, the greater the benefit.”

“The mounting evidence of aspirin’s strong anticancer effect is hard to ignore” continues Dr Bender. A number of studies in the past 10 years have reached similar conclusions. However, not everybody agrees that aspirin should be recommended for cancer prevention. There are experts who are concerned about the small but definite risk of serious bleeding. To me the big unanswered questions are: what is the optimal dose of aspirin, how long should a person take it and at what age to start. If we get answers to these questions we will feel more comfortable recommending aspirin as primary prevention for cancer.”

MDanderson cancer network certified member

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