The list of conditions, activities and substances that increase cancer risk is considerably longer than a contrasting list of conditions, activities and substances that negate cancer risk. For the most part, scientists have expounded on the benefits of regular screenings to reduce the likelihood of developing cancer (and still do).
However, thanks to two major, long-term epidemiologic studies, scientists now have another ‘good guy’—regular use of aspirin. Even better, regular use of aspirin can complement the preventative benefits of cancer screening tests, such as colonoscopy.
The studies—Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study—cover 32 years of data strewn from about 136,000 participants. From the studies, scientists found that regular use of aspirin resulted in reduced risk of colorectal cancer by 19 percent and gastrointestinal cancer by 15 percent.
For any type of cancer, regular aspirin use reduced risk by 3 percent. Regular aspirin use had no effect in lowering the risk of developing prostate, breast or lung cancer risk.
Regular aspirin use refers to taking a low-dose or standard low-dose aspirin tablet at least twice a week.
These findings are behind the statement by Dr. Andrew Chan, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Gastroenterology, that the team recommends individuals to consider the use of aspirin to lower individual risk of colorectal cancer. This is especially the case for individuals who have standard valid reasons for regular use of aspirin, such as prevention of heart disease.
Furthermore, Chan maintains that the findings do tell of how aspirin use could prevent more colorectal cancers than would be prevented by screening and that aspirin use may have greater benefits in scenarios where cancer-screening resources are lacking. Regardless, at no point should aspirin be viewed as a substitute for cancer screening tests including colonoscopy.
However, before you go about popping tablets of aspirin on the regular, you should consult your physician about the advisability of taking aspirin for gastrointestinal cancer, especially if you have risk factors such as a family history.
With that said, the benefits of regular intake of aspirin for colorectal cancer sprouts up after five years of continuous use at doses ranging from one low-dose tablet a day to 0.5 to 1.5 standard tablets a week. For gastrointestinal tumors, the benefits sprout up after six years at the same dosage level.
The estimated number of preventable cases associated with regular aspirin use is impressive. In the US, 30,000 gastrointestinal tract tumors cases annually may never happen following regular aspirin use. For colorectal tumors, the number is additional 7,500 amongst US adults over 50 who have endoscopic screening and 9,800 among the non-screened population of about 30 million.
The scientists published their study in the journal JAMA Oncology.