Low-dose aspirin may reduce bowel cancer risk

In collaboration with Adfero

Even low doses of aspirin may help to prevent bowel cancer, a new study from the University of Edinburgh suggests.

Previous research has shown that people who regularly take aspirin may be less likely to develop bowel cancer, but scientists are still trying to determine the most effective dose.

The treatment is also not without risk, as long-term aspirin use can increase the likelihood of gastrointestinal bleeding.

The latest study, published in the journal Gut, looked at nearly 2,300 people with bowel cancer and just under 3,000 healthy people.

Participants were asked about their dietary and lifestyle habits, including their use of aspirin.

Among those with bowel cancer, 15.5 per cent were taking low-dose (75mg) aspirin. Meanwhile, 18 per cent of cancer-free volunteers were aspirin users.

Analysis revealed that use of any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin, was associated with a reduced risk of developing cancer.

Taking daily low-dose aspirin was associated with a 22 per cent reduced risk of developing bowel cancer.

However, NSAID use prior to being diagnosed with bowel cancer did not have any impact on survival from the disease.

The researchers concluded that long-term use of high-dose aspirin is not necessary to reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

Yinka Ebo, Cancer Research UK's health information officer, said: "This new research suggests that taking small amounts of aspirin each month could help protect against bowel cancer. But this doesn't mean that we should all reach for the medicine cabinet just yet because the risks may outweigh the benefits.

"Larger studies will need to confirm the findings. Scientists have previously shown that high doses of aspirin taken over many years could help cut the risk of bowel cancer. It's even more encouraging to think that a protective effect could be seen at lower doses which are less likely to cause harm."

References

  • Din, F. et al (2010). Effect of aspirin and NSAIDs on risk and survival from colorectal cancer Gut DOI: 10.1136/gut.2009.203000