Small Pill - Big Results: Aspirin Shown to Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer

  1. For a long time aspirin has been taken for its therapeutic abilities in heart patients. Recent evidence has shown that aspirin may also reduce a patient’s risk of getting certain types of cancer.

    Small Pill - Big Results: Aspirin Shown to Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer

    In our modern world, medicine is one of the largest expenses for patients. Many patients cannot afford their medicine so they go without or don't take it as often as prescribed. It is nice to see information come forward about a low-cost drug like aspirin that is useful.


    Many people take an 81 mg daily aspirin for prevention of strokes and heart attacks. There is evidence that for some patients, "taking a low-dose aspirin(81 mg) daily may protect you from developing many types of cancer," professor of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Robert S. Bresalier is quoted in the article, "Can a Daily Aspirin Lower Your Cancer Risk?"

    Taking aspirin over a long period of time has revealed in studies to lower the risk of colon and rectal cancer by as much as 50%. This is welcome news for patients who fit the profile to take a daily aspirin.

    The study also showed that aspirin can be beneficial for patients recovering from breast cancer. Taking an aspirin for the first three to five years post breast cancer revealed that the patients lowered their risk of recurrence of breast cancer by 60%. The article stated that 71% are less apt to die from breast cancer if taking a daily aspirin for years after. Other cancers that are diminished by taking aspirin are lung and gastric cancer.

    Inflammation is a substantial factor for cancer growth in the body. Short term inflammation is good for the body enabling it to fight with the immune system to keep our bodies healthy and combat disease. It's the chronic inflammation that becomes dangerous regarding cancer. Aspirin decreases inflammation. Markham Heid in the previous referenced article tells us that "if cancer is a fire that's spreading through your cells, chronic inflammation is helping fuel it."

    Those who are ages 50 - 69 seem to benefit the most from the typical 81mg aspirin according to Lena H. Sun in her article, "Pop a Daily Aspirin to Help Prevent Heart Attacks, Stroke and Colon Cancer, Expert Panel Says." This population is most at risk for cardiovascular problems. Each patient should always talk with their doctor before starting any medication. Patients should have at least a 10 year life expectancy and be willing to take the aspirin for 10 years. Patients who are at a greater risk for gastrointestinal bleeding should discuss the risks with their doctors before taking aspirin. She also stated that there is not enough evidence to recommend the aspirin in patients prophylactically who are less than 50 years old.

    In September of 2015, Robert Preidt wrote an article for WebMD that published the results of a four year study in the article, "More Evidence Daily Aspirin May Fight Colon Cancer." This study reinforces that aspirin can prolong the lives of GI cancer sufferers. Arun Swaminath is quoted as saying that some "hereditary colon cancer" patients can increase survival by taking a daily aspirin as well as those with an average risk of developing colon cancer.

    The study followed 13,700 patients with a diagnosis of GI cancer showing that those who took the aspirin had two times the chance of survival than those who did not take the aspirin.

    Some Say More Research Needed

    Not all doctors and researchers are totally convinced that aspirin has the touted anti cancer abilities. The National Cancer Institute tells us in their article, "No Easy Answers about Whether Aspirin Lowers Cancer Risk," that not every study has shown a reduction in survival or occurrence of GI cancer coupled with a daily aspirin. They say the studies had limitations, one being that some of the studies are observational. Therefore, there is no clear cut data on cause and effect. There are several studies that are going on right now to help clear up the issue. One study is for Lynch syndrome patients (inherited colon cancer) to see if aspirin reduces the occurrence of cancer. Another is looking at patients 65 and older to see if the benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks, and another is studying the effects of aspirin on Barrett's esophagus patients and how it can decrease the chance of Barrett's turning into esophageal cancer.

    Although the studies have time and time again shown a decrease in certain patient's risk for cancer while taking aspirin, there still remains doubt. John Baron, M.D, M.S., M.Sc. is quoted as saying, " More formal study is needed to nail down (aspirin's) risks and benefits".
    Bleeding is one side effect of aspirin. The dosage of aspirin in the use of cancer prevention is not determined as of yet. Knowing the dosage is very important in relation to dangerous side effects. Also, the long term anticancer effect of aspirin once it's discontinued must be answered.


    Keeping abreast of new treatment modalities and the latest research is important for nurses. It helps us to be informed and make educated decisions in our professional lives. As the research continues to come in about the benefits of aspirin, hopefully there will be even better news for patients with cancer. Has anyone seen patients on aspirin specifically for prevention of cancer? Do any of the nurse practitioners out there reading this prescribe it for that reason? Please tell us your story.


    Heid, Markham. "Can a Daily Aspirin Lower Your Cancer Risk?" Nov. 2014. MDAnderson. 14 April, 2016. Web.

    "No Easy Answers About Whether Aspirin Lowers Cancer Risk." 9 April, 2015. National Cancer Institute. 14 April, 2106. Web.

    Preidt, Robert. "More Evidence Daily Aspirin May Fight Colon Cancer." 28 Sept. 2015. WebMD. 14 April, 2016. Web.

    Sun, Lena H. "Pop a Daily Aspirin to Help Prevent Heart Attacks, Stroke and Colon Cancer, Expert Panel Says". 11 April, 2016. The Washington Post. 14 April 2016. Web.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 17, '18
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    About Brenda F. Johnson, BSN, RN

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  3. by   Guest12/13/16
    Aspirin has also been shown to increase the chances of macular degeneration.

    Aspirin Linked to Blinding Eye Disease
  4. by   Brenda F. Johnson
    Quote from jsfarri
    Aspirin has also been shown to increase the chances of macular degeneration.

    Aspirin Linked to Blinding Eye Disease
    That's horrible!
  5. by   James W.
    I have been taking daily Aspirin (as prophylaxis) for ~30 years..

    ..since reading 'Historical Medical Classics Involving New Drugs'..
    .. wherein the chapter on Aspirin, stated its many uses..

    & since given my strong familial/genetic propensity for developing cancer,
    I figured it was 'a no-brainer' ( & nil adverse effects - for me - either)..
  6. by   Gina s, RN
    I believe the NSAID is supposed to be high doses to lower the number of polyps made therefore lowering colon cancer risk for those of us with genetic disorders like FAP (which I have the attenuated version) or Lynch syndrome. I actually started this therapy 6 years ago. I took sulindac. No way to really know if I made fewer polyps while taking it and I'm off the meds now as I still formed too many polyps and just had my colon removed.
  7. by   klone
    Aspirin also helps prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnant women who have a history of it in past pregnancy.