Study: Regular Aspirin Use May Cut Cancer Risk

It's particularly good at protecting against colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers.


Aspirin photo via Shutterstock

Your quick headache fix may also cut your cancer risk, according to a study from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Mass General found that taking aspirin at least twice a week seems to cut an individual’s risk of developing some types of cancer, particularly colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers. Aspirin use dropped overall cancer risk by 3 percent, colorectal risk by 19 percent, and gastrointestinal risk by 15 percent.

Notably, the study found that aspirin use did not affect chances of getting prostate, lung, or breast cancers—a possible blow to a breast cancer and aspirin trial run by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The Mass General team used the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study to analyze data from roughly 136,000 subjects collected over 32 years. The trends they found emerged in individuals who regularly took aspirin for at least five years.

“At this point, it would be very reasonable for individuals to discuss with their physicians the advisability of taking aspirin to prevent gastrointestinal cancer, particularly if they have risk factors such as a family history,” senior author Andrew Chan said in a statement. “But this should be done with the caveat that patients be well informed about the potential side effects of regular aspirin treatment and continue their regular screening tests.” 

Those side effects include a potentially higher risk of stroke, ulcers, stomach bleeding, and allergic reactions.

Current research suggests that aspirin helps prevent cancer by blocking enzymes that trigger the body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation is a normal, healthy part of healing injuries, but chronic, unchecked inflammation may give rise to tumors.

Aspirin may also help prevent heart attacks by thinning the blood and preventing potentially dangerous clots.