A collection of three papers (two published in The Lancet and one in The Lancet Oncology) add to the growing evidence base suggesting that daily aspirin can be used to help prevent and possibly treat cancer. All three papers are by Professor Peter Rothwell, University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital, and colleagues.
The case for using aspirin to prevent cancer continues to build, particularly if people are at increased risk of the disease. It follows the finding that aspirin can reduce the chances of tumours spreading to other parts of the body.
Professor Rothwell, research theme leader for the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford says: “We are not at the stage of recommending aspirin use in everybody, but the guidelines on use of aspirin in the healthy middle-aged population certainly need to be updated in order to take into account the effects on the risk and outcome of cancer as well as on the risk of heart attacks and strokes.”
Previous studies by this team have established that aspirin reduces the long-term risk of dying from cancer, but that these effects don’t appear until about 8–10 years after starting taking a daily low dose of the drug. The short-term effects of aspirin were less certain.
“What we have now shown is that aspirin also has short-term effects, which are manifest after only 2–3 years,” says Professor Rothwell.
“In particular, we show that aspirin reduces the likelihood that cancers will spread to distant organs by about 40–50%. This is important because it is this process of spread of cancer, or ‘metastasis’, which most commonly kills people with cancer.”