Daily Aspirin May Help Prevent and Treat Cancer
New Research Shows Aspirin Appears to Slow Cancer Growth, May Add to Drug’s Uses
Talk to Your Doctor About Risks, Benefits
Three years ago, health policy experts weighed in on the use of daily aspirin therapy for the prevention of heart and blood vessel disease.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends aspirin therapy for men between the ages of 45 and 79 when the potential benefit for lowering heart attacks outweighs the risks. The task force recommends aspirin therapy for women between the ages of 55 to 79 when the potential benefit for lowering strokes outweighs the risks.
These risks include major bleeds such as stomach bleeds, which are uncommon but can be fatal.
One key finding in the new analysis is that the risk for major bleeds decreased over time in patients on daily aspirin.
“We believe randomized trials of aspirin for the treatment of cancer are urgently needed,” Rothwell says. “In the meantime, I think it would be reasonable for cancer patients who do not have an increased risk for [stomach] bleeds to take aspirin.”
In an editorial published with the study, Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, and Nancy R. Cook, ScD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, conclude that future guidelines regarding the use of daily aspirin must consider the therapy’s impact on cancer as well as on heart attack and stroke risk.
Chan tells WebMD that in the absence of definitive data, patients need to discuss the potential benefits and risks of daily aspirin with their health care provider before starting the therapy.
“This discussion has to include the patient’s individual risks and the limitations of the data,” he says. “But we can’t ignore the data, which, though not definitive, are quite strong.”
Eric Jacobs, PhD, who is strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the American Cancer Society, agrees that no one should start aspirin therapy for any reason without talking to his or her doctor.
“Any decision about treatment should be made on an individual basis in consultation with your health care professional,” he says. “Even low-dose aspirin can substantially increase the risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding.”