NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Aspirin has been called a kind of miracle drug. You can buy it over the counter, it relieves pain, reduces inflammation, protects against heart attack and stroke, and now researchers say it may be able to prevent some types of cancer.
“There’s very strong evidence that aspirin can prevent colorectal cancer, but the association of aspirin with other cancer types isn’t really as well established,” Dr. Andrew Chan, of Massachusetts General Hospital, told CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez.
Chan and his co-authors examined data from two large national studies that include almost 136,000 health professionals, both men and women, who have been providing detailed information about their overall health for decades.
Those who took either adult or baby doses of aspirin on a regular basis had a lower overall risk of developing any type of cancer, and taking the drug was specifically preventative in certain cases.
“Cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. So cancers that affect the esophagus, the stomach,” Chan said.
The study in JAMA Oncology found a significant reduction in those types of cancer. The benefit was for those who took aspirin at least two times a week.
“There was about a 15 to 20 percent reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer if you were using an aspirin on a regular basis. We also found that it did take about six years of use for a benefit to emerge, but you know, once there was this benefit, it was sustained over time,” Chan told CBS2.
He said the even bigger public health benefit of aspirin may be for those who don’t have routine colorectal cancer screenings such as colonoscopies.
“And in addition, for folks that do not undergo screening for whatever reason, the effect of aspirin also is quite pronounced, and because we know that cancer and heart disease are really the two leading causes of death in the U.S. population, the public health impact of these findings might be substantial,” Chan said.
Aspirin helped reduce colorectal cancer even above and beyond what one would get from a colonoscopy. Unfortunately, aspirin did not lower the risk for breast, prostate, or lung cancer.