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Taking aspirin to reduce cancer risk

April 14, 2017

Hello. I’m Dr Arefa Cassoobhoy, a practicing internist and a medical editor for Medscape and WebMD. Welcome to Morning Report, our 1-minute news story for primary care.

Could an Aspirin a Day Keep Cancer at Bay?

Patients might be asking you if they should take aspirin to prevent cancer. And depending on their age and health status, the answer may be “yes.”

Data show that overall mortality is lowered with regular aspirin use. That benefit is due primarily to reduced death from cancer —in particular, colorectal cancer, as well as breast, prostate, and lung cancer.

More than 130,000 adults from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study were followed for a median of 32 years. Cancer mortality was 7% lower for women and 15% lower for men, with benefits seen at doses of at least 0.5-1.5 standard aspirin tablets per week for a minimum of 6 years.

This study adds support to aspirin use in the prevention of cancer. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) already recommends low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease and colorectal cancer in adults aged 50-59 who are not at increased risk for bleeding, have a life expectancy of at least 10 years, and are willing to take low-dose aspirin daily for at least 10 years. For adults aged 60-69, the USPSTF recommends that the decision to begin low-dose aspirin should be an individual one, based on whether the patient places a higher value on the potential benefits than the potential harms of taking daily aspirin.


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