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Long-term aspirin use linked to lower risk for certain cancers

The study concluded that long-term aspirin use was associated with a modest but significantly reduced risk for overall cancer, especially gastrointestinal tract tumours.

Mar 5, 2016 08:11 IST
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A group of Harvard scientists reported that taking low-dose aspirin every day may lower the overall risk of cancer by 3 percent.

The study was published on 3 March 2016 in Jama Oncology. The study concluded that long-term aspirin use was associated with a modest but significantly reduced risk for overall cancer, especially gastrointestinal tract tumours. Regular aspirin use may prevent a substantial proportion of colorectal cancers and complement the benefits of screening.

How the study was done?

Data were collected from 2 ongoing prospective studies:

The Nurses’ Health Study (NHS): a cohort study of 121 700 US female nurses aged 30 to 55 years at enrolment in 1976.
The Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS): a cohort study of 51 529 US male health care professionals aged 40 to 75 years at enrolment in 1986.

In the NHS, aspirin use was first assessed in 1980 and every 2 years thereafter except in 1986, and the participants were asked whether they took aspirin most weeks, the number of tablets taken per week, and the duration of aspirin use.

In the HPFS in 1986 and every 2 years thereafter, participants were asked whether they used aspirin 2 or more times per week.

In each cohort, incident cancers were ascertained by biennial questionnaire reports and the National Death Index.

Data were analyzed from 15 September 2014 to 17 December 2015.

Regular aspirin use in relation to the risk for any type of cancer, gastrointestinal tract cancer and other non–gastrointestinal tract cancers was analysed in the main analyses. Analysis according to organ site was also conducted.

Key highlights of the study

Taking aspirin of 81mg a day for at least six years saw the risk of cancer of any kind drop by 3 percent.

The middle-aged people who regularly took aspirin were less likely to be diagnosed with cancer of any kind.

It is particularly effective at warding off cancers of the digestive system.

The most dramatic impact was seen for bowel cancer, with people who took aspirin every day for six years seeing their risk drop by 19 percent.

The experts, who tracked 136000 people for 32 years, predicted that regular aspirin use in the US could prevent 30000 tumours a year.

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