Is aspirin effective in reducing the risk of cancer?

Yes, at least for certain types of cancer! A recent report based on 2 ongoing prospective studies (Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study) assessed the risk of cancer in non-regular and regular users of aspirin at a dose of at least 0.5-1.5 standard tablets (325 mg) per week or a low daily dose of 81 mg.  It involved nearly 136,000 subjects while taking into account many potential confounders, including age and cancer screening1.

Compared to non-regular use, aspirin use for at least 6 years was associated with a 3% lower risk of overall cancer, and 15% lower incidence of gastrointestinal cancers, especially colorectal cancers (19% risk reduction); the incidence of breast, advanced prostate or lung cancer was not affected. The irreversible inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the principle enzyme that produces pro-inflammatory prostaglandins such as prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) found in human colorectal adenomas and carcinomas2, may explain aspirin’s protective effect1.



  1. Cao Y, Nishihara R, Wu K, et al. The population impact of long-term use of aspirin and risk of cancer. JAMA Oncol 2016;2:762-769
  2. Greenhough A, Smartt HJM, Moore, et al. The COX-2/PGE2 pathway: key roles in the hallmarks of cancer and adaptation to the tumour microenvironment. Carcinogenesis 2009;30:377-386.


Contributed by Katarzyna Orlewska, Medical Student, Warszawski Uniwersytet Medyczny

Is aspirin effective in reducing the risk of cancer?

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