Aspirin linked to fewer digestive tract cancers

In the journals

Published: August, 2020

Scientists continue to explore the health benefits versus risks of aspirin therapy. One new analysis suggests that taking aspirin may protect against several types of digestive tract cancers. The results were published online April 1, 2020, by Annals of Oncology.

Researchers examined 113 observational studies of cancer in the general population. They found that individuals who took aspirin regularly — at least one or two tablets a week — had significantly lower rates of cancers of the bowel, stomach, gallbladder, esophagus, pancreas, and liver, compared with people who did not take aspirin.

Specifically, aspirin use was linked to 27% fewer bowel cancers, 33% fewer esophageal cancers, 36% fewer stomach cancers, and 22% fewer pancreatic cancers.

The researchers also focused on the effect of daily aspirin dose specifically on bowel cancer. They looked at three dose levels: low (100 mg), regular (325 mg), and high (500 mg). The results showed that higher amounts were linked with greater protection.

For instance, an aspirin dose of 75 to 100 mg a day (equal to one low-dose tablet) was associated with a 10% reduction in bowel cancer compared with not taking aspirin. A daily dose of 325 mg was linked with a 35% reduction, and 500 mg per day was associated with a 50% reduction.

The researchers speculated that the benefit might reflect aspirin's ability to fight inflammation and blood clots. However, they also noted that the connection between aspirin and cancer was only an association and that the studies do not prove that aspirin actually reduces cancer risk. And, aspirin may raise the risk of side effects like stomach bleeding. People should always consult their doctor before taking aspirin regularly.

Image: dszc/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.