Aspirin use linked to moderate drop in cancer risk

July 09, 2017

The study, appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds specific cancers that occurred less commonly in long-term daily aspirin users included colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and possibly breast cancer.

For their study, American Cancer Society researchers led by Eric J. Jacobs, PhD, addressed the potential effect of using adult-strength aspirin on overall cancer risk. A large study published by Harvard University researchers in 2005 found that taking a low-dose aspirin (about 100 mg) every other day did not lower risk of any cancer, suggesting that higher doses may be required to help prevent cancer. Adult-strength aspirin has been associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer in previous studies, but this new study is the first to examine the relationship between long-term daily use of adult-strength aspirin and overall risk of cancer. Aspirin use was determined by a questionnaire.

During 12 years of follow up, nearly 18,000 men and women in the cohort were diagnosed with cancer. Those who reported daily use of adult-strength aspirin for at least five years had an approximately 15 percent relative reduction in overall cancer risk. The decrease was not statistically significant in women. The researchers looked at specific cancer sites and found men who used aspirin daily had a 20 percent lower risk of prostate cancer and that men and women who used aspirin had a 30 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer. Aspirin use had no effect on the risk of other cancers studied: lung cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer. The researchers also found aspirin use for less than five years was not associated with decreased cancer risk.

"The American Cancer Society does not recommend using aspirin to prevent cancer because aspirin can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding," said Dr. Jacobs. "Recommendations for aspirin use should continue to be based on prevention of heart disease and stroke, not cancer. However if further research confirms that daily adult-strength aspirin can meaningfully reduce cancer risk, future recommendations could take cancer prevention into account when deciding on the best dose for people who already need to take aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease."


As the park developed, it came to focus on the causes of cancer, with special attention to environmental factors. M. D. Anderson's study section in carcinogenesis moved to the new facility in April 1977 as the Department of Carcinogenesis, its multidisciplinary structure was a pioneering departure from the organizational practices of the times that foreshadowed an increasingly common practice in recent years.

"Local support has always been a wonderful aspect of the SPRD," DiGiovanni notes. "Friends of the Science Park provide both moral support and financial help for us and we greatly appreciate their efforts. Friends of the Science Park have been instrumental in our celebration of our 30th anniversary."

The Virginia Harris Cockrell Cancer Research Center at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Research Highlights

Discovery of a Direct Link between Smoking and Lung Cancer. Researchers showed that bronchial epithelial cells treated with BPDE (a carcinogen in cigarette smoke) exhibited DNA damage in the P53 tumor suppressor gene, a major target gene for cigarette smoke-induced lung cancer. These results provided the first direct link between a chemical carcinogen in tobacco smoke and human lung cancer. Discovery of the T cell Receptor. T cells are immune cells that protect against infection and cancer. Researchers discovered the T cell receptor, a molecule expressed by T cells that activates their function. This discovery paved the way for a greater understanding of the role of the immune system in detecting and eliminating infectious diseases and cancer. Discovery of a Candidate Melanoma Suppressor Gene in a Fish Model. Using a novel fish model to investigate the role of UV in causing melanoma, a tumor suppressor gene related to human melanoma susceptibility was discovered. This discovery connects research using this unique animal model with a tumor suppressor gene important to melanoma risk in humans. Early Life Exposure to Environmental Chemicals May Increase Cancer Risk Later in Life. Researchers have uncovered a potential reason why some people who are genetically predisposed to hormone-dependent cancers develop the disease as an adult, while others who are similarly susceptible do not. Their studies showed that exposure to pharmaceutical estrogen during fetal development can permanently "reprogram" tissues in a way that determines whether tumors will develop in adulthood. Discovery of a Potential Skin Cancer Prevention Target. Scientists identified a protein, called Stat3, that is required for the development of skin cancer. This finding could lead to new ways to prevent skin cancer before it starts. Further research revealed a central role for Stat3 in the interactions between skin and the immune system that cause psoriasis. Mild Forms of Calorie Restriction are Effective at Preventing Cancer in Genetically Predisposed Animals. Researchers discovered that adult-onset calorie restriction and a one day/week fast increased longevity in mice genetically predestined to develop fatal tumors due to p53 deficiency. These studies indicate that even mild forms of calorie restriction in adults may be an effective means of preventing or reducing risk of cancer, especially in genetically predisposed individuals. "Backward" DNA causes genetic instability that can lead to cancer. When otherwise normal DNA adopts an unusual shape called Z-DNA, it can cause the kind of genetic instability in "hot spots" of the genome associated with cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. These findings opened a new field of inquiry into the role of DNA shape in genomic instability and cancer.