Can Aspirin Lower Cancer Risk?

Medically Reviewed

No single activity will safeguard you 100 percent against cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, but you can lower your risk by getting screened for colon cancer, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting red meat, not smoking, and now, evidence suggests, taking aspirin.

Researchers examining data from two large, ongoing studies found evidence to support that recommendation. Over a period of 32 years, there were 20,414 cancers documented in 88,084 women, and 7,571 cancers documented in 47,881 men. The study was published in JAMA Oncology in March 2016.

In those who consumed aspirin two or three times a week, the benefit was modest, lowering the risk of overall cancer by 3 percent. But when it came to gastrointestinal cancers specifically, the risk was 15 percent lower, and 19 percent lower for colon and rectal cancers.

In the context of screening, the authors posited that aspirin use could reduce the risk of colorectal cancers by 17 percent in adults over the age of 50 who do not undergo lower endoscopy screening, and by 8.5 percent in those who do.

But they also noted that more needs to be known about the potential harms of aspirin use, and in which patients the benefits of aspirin use would outweigh the risks.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended low-dose aspirin use as a way to prevent colorectal cancer in average risk adults.