For years, doctors have known that regular use of aspirin can reduce the risk of heart problems. Now, researchers have discovered another potential use of aspirin: the prevention of digestive cancer.
A new study from the Center for Cancer Prevention at Queen Mary University of London’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine found that taking aspirin daily reduced the number of esophageal, stomach, and bowel cancers. In addition, there was a lower risk of death from those digestive cancers.
The researchers analyzed previously published studies and papers to determine how daily aspirin usage affects the rate of diagnosis of and mortality from digestive cancer.
In order to see the effects, aspirin use must be long term. In the first three years of aspirin use, there was no benefit in terms of digestive health.
People taking aspirin every day for 10 years had a 35% lower chance of bowel cancer diagnosis and a 40% lower chance of death from bowel cancer. Using aspirin for 10 years reduced the risk of esophageal and stomach cancer by 30%, and the number of deaths by 35-50%.
Benefits were visible in people between the age of 50 and 65 who took a daily dose of 75 to 100 milligrams of aspirin for at least five years.
Although aspirin was protective against cancer, the study confirmed concerns that long-term aspirin risk increases the risk of gastric, or stomach, bleeding. 60-year-olds who took aspirin for 10 years had a 3.6% risk of gastric bleeding, as opposed to a 2.2% risk in people who did not take aspirin. The increased risk is attributed to aspirin’s blood-thinning effects.
Although the risk of bleeding is significant, the benefits of long-term aspirin use outweigh the risks in many cases. Smoking and alcohol, as well as having uncontrolled reflux for a long time, are other significant risk factors for digestive cancers, especially esophageal cancer. In addition to maintaining a healthy weight and refraining from smoking, the research implies that daily low dose aspirin use is one of the most powerful preventive steps for reducing digestive cancer rates.
On the other hand, daily aspirin use is not right for everyone. For example, people on other blood-thinning drugs and people with certain risk factors, such as a history of bleeding ulcers or steroid use, the risks outweigh the benefits. You should talk to your doctor before taking aspirin on a regular basis, whether for heart disease or digestive cancer prevention.