Research Suggests Decreased Cancer Risk With Daily Aspirin Use

A number of studies have demonstrated the relationship between a daily aspirin regimen and a decreased incidence of some cancers, although no definitive cause-and-effect relationship has been established, nor the length of the daily aspirin treatment or the ideal dosage. The science is strong enough to warrant recommendations for daily aspirin usage from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

What Cancers Might Be Prevented By Taking a Daily Aspirin?

Although there are a number of types of cancer whose incidence may be reduced by taking a daily aspirin, there are four types of cancer of the gastrointestinal system that seem to be the most greatly affected: Colon, esophagus, rectum and stomach.

Other research suggests that to a lesser extent, breast, lung, ovarian and prostate cancers may be prevented by taking an aspirin daily. The research for these cancers comes from observation of data already obtained through clinical studies on the use of daily aspirin for prevention of heart disease.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations for Aspirin Use to Prevent Cancer

In April 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued recommendations for the use of a daily aspirin regimen to help prevent both heart disease and colorectal cancer.

The USPSTF provides the strongest recommendation for the use of a daily aspirin regimen for those people in the age group of 50 to 59 years-of-age. This recommendation is graded a “B” by the USPSTF, meaning healthcare providers should offer this recommendation to their patients in that age group as it offers a “high certainty that the net benefit is moderate or there is moderate certainty that the net benefit is moderate to substantial.”

The recommended aspirin dosage is 75 mg once a day, often called low-dose aspirin or baby aspirin.

In addition to age, the USPSTF states that the people most appropriate to be considered for this have a 10 percent or greater risk of developed cardiovascular disease, are not at an increased risk for bleeding and are willing to take daily aspirin for at least ten years.

The second highest recommendation for the use of a daily aspirin regimen, receiving a grade of “C” by the USPSTF, is people between the ages of 60 to 69 years-of-age, with the same considerations of criteria as the 50 to 59 years-of-age group, and again with low-dose daily aspirin.

The “C” grade indicates that the scientific evidence supporting the use of a daily aspirin regimen is of a moderate certainty that the net benefit versus the potential risks is small and healthcare providers should recommend this only to selected patients – those that have at least a 10-year life expectancy and those who consider the potential benefits of daily aspirin over its potential harm in addition to the criteria established for 50 to 59- year-olds.

The use of daily aspirin to prevent cancer in those younger than 50 or older than 69 does not have enough scientific evidence to support recommendations for its use in these age groups, nor for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in these ages.

What Are the Potential Harms of Taking a Daily Aspirin?

While a daily low-dose aspirin is sometimes recommended by healthcare providers as a prevention for stroke, the benefit there comes from the prevention potential for a stroke caused by blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. Because aspirin thins the blood, its use in the prevention of this type of a stroke is useful.

However, in the event of a hemorrhagic stroke, where a blood vessel bursts in the brain, the use of daily aspirin can lead to more bleeding in this type of stroke than not having the blood-thinning properties of aspirin in your body.

Aspirin also has the potential to lead to bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract that in some instances could lead to death.

Individuals who are taking any one of a number of prescription medications such as Coumadin (warfarin), heparin, Xarelto, Eliquis or any of the other medications used in the prevention of blood clots should not take aspirin unless specifically directed to by the prescriber of their medication. Daily aspirin use also has the potential to interact with other prescription and over-the-counter medications as well.

Due to these and other potential complications, individuals should talk to their healthcare providers before starting a daily aspirin regimen. The temptation may be there to go ahead and self-medicate because aspirin is an over-the-counter drug, not requiring a prescription for use, but the potential for harm is always there, necessitating the need to first discuss with your healthcare provider.

No substance, whether over-the-counter, natural or organic, is without the potential for harm if used incorrectly, excessively, or without becoming aware of the risks involved. Aspirin, though an old drug that comes from a natural source, the bark of a willow tree, has a number of positive uses, but as noted here, is not without its own risks.

Caveat: This article is informational in nature and not intended to be used to replace or used instead of advice from a healthcare professional.

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