Can an aspirin a day keep cancer away?
March 21st, 2012
06:32 AM ET

Can an aspirin a day keep cancer away?

Aspirin is recognized for its effects in heart-attack prevention. And several studies “have provided evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, may hold promise in helping to prevent cancer,” according to the National Cancer Institute. 

There’s a long history of research on aspirin and cancer, starting in the early 1990s. But can an aspirin a day keep cancer away?

It’s not quite that simple, although two studies published in the Lancet and one in Lancet Oncology suggest that aspirin could have some protective effects against cancer.

From a tree, a 'miracle' called aspirin

All three studies were conducted by Dr. Peter M. Rothwell and his colleagues at the University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom.

In the first study published in the Lancet, the researchers found that the aspirin users had reduced cancer deaths (562 to 664 deaths) and fewer nonvascular deaths (1,021 to 1,173 deaths) – these are causes unrelated to the heart or circulatory system. These findings were based on 34 studies.

In 51 trials, aspirin users had lower nonvascular deaths and had reduced in-trial cancer deaths by nearly 40% after about five years.

The findings only applied to daily users of aspirin, not studies in which subjects consumed aspirin every other day.

In six prevention trials, aspirin users had reduced cancer incidence from three years onward by 324 cases compared with 421 cases in the groups who did not consume aspirin.

Rothwell and his colleagues wrote that the results in the short-term reductions in cancer incidence and mortality “add to the case for daily aspirin in prevention of cancer.”

Eric Jacobs, director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, said it would take time for the scientific community to evaluate these new findings with existing evidence.

Using aspirin to help cancer prevention is not necessarily a new concept; previous studies have shown evidence it is particularly helpful in colorectal cancers.

“It is not entirely clear how aspirin works to prevent colorectal cancer and possibly other cancers,” Jacobs said.  “These recent studies are finding apparent effects at very low doses that suggest the effects of aspirin on platelets may be important for cancer.  Platelets are affected by very low doses of aspirin.”

Although daily aspirin has some promising benefits, it can also raise the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Even low doses of aspirin can increase risk of stomach bleeding,” Jacobs said.  “Low doses can help prevent heart attacks because they stop the platelets from sticking together and causing clots.  They can, even in low doses, increase the risk of bleeding.”

Before popping aspirin for the sake of cancer prevention, Jacobs warned that a person should consult his or her doctors.

“It’s a balance of the overall risk and overall benefits,” he said.

 The second article published in the Lancet indicated that aspirin could affect how cancer grows and spreads.  The authors collected data from five studies totaling 17,285 patients in the United Kingdom.

The people in the experiment group took daily aspirin (less than 75 mg). The study found the aspirin reduced risk in cancers in the colon, lung and prostate by 46%, and other cancers, such as those in the bladder and kidney, by 18%.

“Allocation to aspirin reduced the incidence of new cancers during the trials,” wrote the researchers.

The third study published in Lancet Oncology observed the same effect from aspirin when the authors examined observational studies instead of trials.  The results of the observational studies were 38% reduced risk of colorectal cancer among aspirin users.

In an accompanying commentary entitled, “Are we ready to recommend aspirin for cancer prevention?” two doctors commenting on the study wrote: “This finding was the first convincing evidence that aspirin might prevent death from several cancers, thereby widening its potential population-wide effect.”

But they wrote that the Rothwell studies didn’t include the trials in which subjects took aspirin every other day.

“Despite a convincing case that the vascular and anticancer benefits of aspirin outweigh the harms of major extracranial bleeding, these analyses do not account for less serious adverse effects on quality of life, such as less severe bleeding.”

soundoff (192 Responses)
  1. Survivor

    Maby we should start eating willow tree bark and leaves with our salad.

    March 21, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spucky

      Yes, Survivor – that seems like a great idea! Many people (including SMARTMAN below) don't know that aspirin, until it was synthesized, was derived from willow bark. In fact, many of today's natural healers, and certainly healers throughout history, have used willow bark to treat many ailments.

      March 21, 2012 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
    • Max Brooks

      Yes, along with a marijuana regimen

      April 3, 2012 at 16:35 | Report abuse |

    Yeah, bark and leaves. Shut up stupid!

    March 21, 2012 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Myto Senseworth

      I assume from the post that the "stupid" that you are asking survivor to make "shut up" goes by the screen name "SMARTMAN".

      March 22, 2012 at 12:36 | Report abuse |

    Yeah, SURVIVOR, maybe you should take a big diarrhea in your pants too!

    March 21, 2012 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Survivor

      @ SMARTMAN......, shouldn't you use the name DUMB@$$??

      March 22, 2012 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
  4. Jasmine Patel

    Look at this study. This aspirin is designed to release nitric oxide so it does not damage the stomach or cause GI bleeding and it releases hydrogen sulfide to destroy cancer.


    March 21, 2012 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Beefburger

      You really need to study H2S (hydrogen sulfide) to realize that it is NOT your friend. H2S oxidizes to H2SO4 (Sulphuric Acid) H2S also impedes the body's use of copper which is your main defense against fungal infection including systemic infection via yeasts such as Candida Albicans.

      March 22, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
  5. Kevin

    Chanca Piedra works. Graviola works. Nuff said. The FDA doesn't rule the F'n world. Research these items abroad. I know personally these items work. The VA Hospital in Tucson put me on both. The pharmacy carries special Guanabana leafs from Ecuador. The Chanca comes in a large plastic bag. You have to chop the Guanabana leaves up because they come whole. The VA Hospital will not provide capsules or pills. It must be pure and in original form.

    And also the VA can recommend marijuana also. Google it and shut the F up.

    March 21, 2012 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Eric Richards

    “Despite a convincing case that the vascular and anticancer benefits of aspirin outweigh the harms of major extracranial bleeding, these analyses do not account for less serious adverse effects on quality of life, such as less severe bleeding.”

    I didn't like that closing statement, kind of a "throw away" statement, but with potential implications that could be very significant. Anybody see any studies that address these? Just curious.

    March 21, 2012 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ron Harding

    It seems like hardly a day goes by when more and more evidence and research studies emerge concerning the benefits of a low dosage aspirin regimen. It really is a “tiny pill to swallow” for so many health benefits.

    March 21, 2012 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. helenecha

    It must be the most significant self-defeating discovery I have ever seen. As we all know, our body whatever will have such a strange feeling uncomfortable because of an evil reaction after taking Aspirin. If we did believe that an Aspirin a day can keep cancer away, we would live with that feeling like a patient day and night. Oh, it really scares me to death.

    March 22, 2012 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. สุรชัย


    March 22, 2012 at 04:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Myto Senseworth

      Not many people posting here can read thai.

      March 22, 2012 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
  10. CrazyMan

    Aspirn was found on that alien ship that crashed in Area 51.

    March 22, 2012 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply

    That's like saying "hey, let's eat coca leaves". just because it's a dreivative doesn't mean you can or should eat it straight from the source. Stupid! Hahahhahahah Survivor, Spucky and Myto-go eat diarrhea!

    March 22, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply

    And please excuse the misspellings. lol

    March 22, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. aretiree

    Suggestions like this led me to cancel my donations to cancer research. In the past many years cancer cure and prevention have been rather unsuccessfully pursued. There have been some notable successes but it would seem that cancer cure remains out of reach. And all this time none of these gurus thought of the aspirin? I would suggest the aspirin treatment be shelved.

    March 22, 2012 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Oncology RN

      True, there still is no "magic pill" cure, but there have been many discoveries in recent years that allow us to treat cancer patients with drugs that prolong survival and preserve quality of life for many years. This is progress!

      March 23, 2012 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
  14. gina

    i would love to believe theres truth to taking an asprin a day

    March 23, 2012 at 01:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ruben

    Taxotere can and DOES cause permanent iharloss which you keep hushed up. You offer this drug for primary breast cancer not too.Why dont you just come clean and inform oncologists about this side effect that you say you dont keep records of? You are supposed to keep this info for as long as the drug is used so why are you acting illegally or lying?

    April 9, 2012 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Aspirin interferes with your blood's clotting action. When you bleed, your blood's clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding. `-";

    Our very own website

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