For many years, a daily aspirin has been recommended to prevent cardiovascular events such as a stroke or heart attack. A stroke or heart attack can occur when a blood clot blocks the arteries leading to the heart or to the brain. Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, “thins” the blood and prevents clots from forming. Rather than literally thinning blood, aspirin works by preventing platelets from aggregating and forming clots. Recently, a new long-term health benefit has been discovered: aspirin seems to decrease the risk of cancer.
A study, published in March of this year in JAMA Oncology, was conducted by Dr. Andrew Chan of Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Chan and coauthors looked at the effects of aspirin on cancer in over 135,000 participants. The team examined patients over a period of 32 years. According to the study results, aspirin seems to have some effect on the overall risk of cancer, but especially on tumors in the gastrointestinal tract and colorectal cancer. The team found that overall cancer rate was about 3% lower, GI tract cancers were 15% lower and colorectal cancer was nearly 20% lower. Another interesting component of the study is that patients only needed to take one half to one and a half regular size aspirin tablets per week to have this almost 20% decrease in the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
GI Tract Diagram
According to Dr. Robert S. Bresalier of MD Anderson, the theory is that long-term aspirin use reduces the risk of developing some cancers, including colorectal cancer, because it reduces inflammation. According to Dr. Bresalier, cancer thrives in environments where inflammation is present. Inflammation is beneficial and necessary in some situations for the National Cancer Institute also states that chronic inflammation is a risk factor for cancer on their website.
Talk to Your Doctor about Daily Aspirin Therapy
Before you hop on the aspirin bandwagon, it’s best to talk to your family physician or another doctor first. Taking aspirin can have side effects just like any other drug can, and while taking a daily aspirin can be beneficial for most people, it can detrimental to others. For instance, people who bleed easily or have certain types of clotting disorders probably shouldn’t take aspirin. It is also harmful for those who have stomach ulcers. In addition to reviewing your medical history first, your doctor can tell you if it’s safe to take aspirin while you are taking other medications.