Daily Aspirin May Help Prevent Cancer

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Daily aspirin appears beneficial for people between ages 50 and 65 in the general population.
Daily aspirin appears beneficial for people between ages 50 and 65 in the general population.

Prophylactic aspirin use seems to be beneficial for men and women between ages 50 and 65 in the general population, with increased benefits seen for long-term use, according to a review published in the Annals of Oncology.

Jack Cuzick, Ph.D., from the Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues conducted a systematic review to examine the benefits and harms of prophylactic aspirin use in the general population.

The researchers found that the effects of aspirin use on cancer were not evident until three or more years after initiation, and for long-term users, some benefits persisted for several years after cessation. No differences were observed for low and standard doses of aspirin, but no direct comparisons were identified. No additional benefits were seen with higher doses, but increased toxicities were observed.

The most important harm associated with aspirin was excess bleeding, with its risk and fatality rate increasing with age. For an individual aged 50 to 65 years at average risk who took aspirin for 10 years over a 15-year period, there was a relative reduction of between 7 and 9 percent (women and men, respectively) in the number of cancer, myocardial infarction, or stroke events, and a 4 percent relative reduction in all-cause mortality over a 20-year period.

RELATED: Low-dose Aspirin Use Has Potential to Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

"Analysis of benefits and harms in the general population in the developed world suggests a net benefit for a minimum five years of aspirin prophylaxis starting between ages 50 and 65, for both men and women, with larger benefits for 10 years of use," the authors write. "Continuing aspirin use for a longer duration also appears to be beneficial; however, there is uncertainty about the age at which it should be stopped."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, including Bayer.

  1. Kuzick, Jack, et al. "Estimates of benefits and harms of prophylactic use of aspirin in the general population." Annals of Oncology. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdu225. August 5, 2014.

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