Aspirin – that tiny pill with a growing list of reasons to take one – has the cancer research community wondering if it’s time to recommend widespread use of aspirin to prevent colon cancer. A number of studies suggest that aspirin may prevent and possibly reduce the risk of dying from some cancers including colon cancer.
At the 2012 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in Vienna, members debated whether the evidence is strong enough to outweigh the risks of prescribing aspirin to millions of healthy people.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that taking aspirin (NSAID) may reduce an individual’s chances of developing colorectal cancer and perhaps other malignancies. A recent meta-analysis that focused on the effect of aspirin use on colorectal cancer showed large and statistically significant reductions in both incidence and death from the disease. The finding, the study team pointed out, is consistent with results from numerous studies that have shown that regular (NSAID) use reduces or prevents precancerous growths in the colon from increasing.
Pros and Cons
Dr. Peter Rothwell of the University of Oxford argued that the mounting evidence of aspirin’s strong anticancer effect is hard to ignore. He suggested that “at a minimum, in combination with the appropriate screening, the data indicate that aspirin would be highly effective in preventing colon cancer.”
However, other medical experts argue that it is premature to recommend that people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer. Even low-dose aspirin may trigger gastrointestinal bleeding. Dr. John Baron of the University of North Carolina said he is not ready to endorse aspirin's widespread use for cancer prevention. "We need to consider all of the benefits and harms that can accrue from aspirin use," said Dr. Baron.
A recent edition of the NCI Cancer Bulletin, reported that the strongest data for supporting the use of aspirin (NSAID) to reduce cancer is in colorectal cancer. But unanswered questions remain, such as dosage, how long to take aspirin for the optimum effect, and when to start taking it.
So stay tuned. And, as always, check with your medical team before making any changes to your medications.
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