The findings come from two separate reports in the Feb. 18 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The most provocative of these reports suggests that regular aspirin use may prevent Hodgkin's disease, a lymphoma or cancer of the white cells in the blood. The finding holds true only for aspirin and not for other drugs of its class such as ibuprofen.
"If aspirin use is indeed found to protect against Hodgkin's lymphoma, this relationship could afford insight into the [cause] of the disease and offer possible clues toward its prevention," conclude Harvard researcher Ellen T. Chang, ScD, and colleagues.
Regular use of another common pain reliever, acetaminophen (Tylenol), seemed to increase the odds of having Hodgkin's disease. It's not the first time acetaminophen has been linked to cancer. However, the researchers think this association is more likely due to the fact that people coming down with Hodgkin's disease may have used more pain relievers.
In the second study, Massachusetts General Hospital researcher Chin Hur, MD, and colleagues find that aspirin is the key to preventing esophageal cancer.
Hur's team looked at whether aspirin is a good way to prevent a condition known as Barrett's esophagus, a result of chronic acid reflux. People with Barrett's esophagus are at high risk of cancer. Aspirin is known to help prevent cancer in people with Barrett's esophagus. But aspirin also can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
The researchers found that aspirin -- with or without regular endoscopy to check for early signs of cancer -- was the most effective way to prevent cancer of the esophagus.