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Wolfson Institute of Population Health - Barts and The London

Daily aspirin can reduce cancer risk


Aspirin pillsProfessor Jack Cuzick debates the merits of general aspirin use to reduce cancer risk, saying the benefit far outweighs the risks in an article published in the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal reports that medical guidelines surrounding aspirin therapy can be confusing with a difference of opinion about the benefits of taking a daily dose to reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Professor Cuzick argues that there is a clear evidence that taking a daily aspirin is simple, low-cost way to reduce your chances of dying from cancer, whilst Dr Lianne Marks believes the risks are just too great.

Professor Cuzick says:


If you are a middle-aged adult at low risk for bleeding, there is a simple low-cost way to reduce your chances of dying from cancer and to a lesser extent heart disease: Take a daily low-dose aspirin.

Professor Cuzick reports that many clinical trials have shown a clear reduction in colorectal cancer from aspirin use, with the biggest effect on colorectal, oesophageal and stomach cancers.  Smaller but fairly consistent benefits have been reported for lung, prostate and breast cancer.

It is noted that aspirin is not without potential side effects such as bleeding in the stomach and brain, but Professor Cuzick believes evidence shows such events are rare and should not outweigh the potential benefits.  People with higher bleeding risks, mostly associated with diabetes or hypertension, or who take blood thinners, are advised to not use aspirin without consulting a doctor.

Professor Cuzick concludes:

Many things still need to be discovered to refine our use of aspirin for cancer prevention, but that shouldn't deter people from making use of the clear information we now have.