Long-term aspirin use may be associated with a reduced risk for overall cancer, particularly gastrointestinal tract tumors, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.1

Researchers led by Yin Cao, MPH, ScD, of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, looked at 88 084 women and 47 881 men as part of the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study with biennially reported aspirin use and who underwent follow-up for as long as 32 years. The main outcome was relative risk for incident cancers and population-attributable risk.

They found that compared with non-regular aspirin use, regular aspirin use was associated with a lower risk for overall cancer, primarily owing to a lower incidence of gastrointestinal tract cancers and especially colorectal cancers.

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Benefit of aspirin on gastrointestinal tract cancers was evident use of at least 0.5 to 1.5 standard aspirin tablets per week, with a minimum duration of 6 years of regular use associated with a lower risk.

Additionally, among patients older than 50 years, regular aspirin use may have prevented 33 colorectal cancers per 100 000 person-years among those who had not undergone lower endoscopy, as well as 18 colorectal cancers per 100 000 person-years among those who had.

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Regular aspirin use was not associated with risk for breast, advanced prostate, or lung cancer.

“Regular aspirin use may prevent a substantial proportion of colorectal cancers and complement the benefits of screening,” the authors concluded.


  1. Cao Y, Nishihara Reiko, Wu K, et al. Population-wide impact of long-term use of aspirin and the risk for cancer [published online ahead of print March 3, 2016]. JAMA Oncol. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.6396.