Taking aspirin regularly over several years may help prevent gastrointestinal cancers, a new study suggests. The research was to be presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, held in Philadelphia.

Yin Cao, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues collected data on 82,600 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study in 1980 and 47,650 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study in 1986.

The researchers collected data on aspirin use, risk factors for cancer, and diagnoses of cancer. After up to 32 years of follow-up, about 20,400 women and 7,570 men developed cancer, the investigators found. Among men, prostate cancer was excluded.

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Cao’s team found that men and women who took a regular dose of aspirin (325 mg) two times a week or more had a lower risk of cancer overall than people who did not regularly take aspirin.

The reduced risk was largely due to fewer cases of gastrointestinal cancers, including colon cancer, rectal cancer, and esophageal cancer. Regular aspirin use was not associated with a reduced risk of other cancers.

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Specifically, no link was found between aspirin use and a lower risk of breast cancer, advanced prostate cancer, or lung cancer, the researchers said.

Getting the biggest benefit from aspirin required taking it for at least 16 years. The benefit was no longer seen within four years of stopping it, the researchers found.

The association of aspirin with reduced cancer risk was the same for women and men regardless of race, history of diabetes, family history of cancer, weight, smoking, regular use of other painkillers, or taking multivitamins, the study authors added.


  1. “Long-term, Regular Aspirin Use Modestly Decreased Cancer Risk.” AACR. http://www.aacr.org/Newsroom/Pages/News-Release-Detail.aspx?ItemID=699#.VTU7miFVhBd. April 19, 2015. Accessed April 20, 2015.