A new paper by Peter Rothwell, et al,(1) examined the effects of daily aspirin on reducing deaths from a range of common cancers. Published in The Lancet online first Dec. 7, the analysis included data from eight trials (individual patient data were available from seven of the eight trials) evaluating aspirin for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular events. The eight trials involved more than 25,000 patients treated with aspirin for four years or longer.

Overall, the analysis concluded that aspirin reduces death rates from a range of common cancers. More specifically, compared to non-aspirin control groups:

People who took daily aspirin had a 21% reduced death rate during the trials.

The benefits were more apparent after 5 years of follow-up with death rates reduced by 34% for all cancers and 54% for gastrointestinal cancers.

Longer term follow-up (20 years) demonstrated a 20% reduction in death with aspirin for all solid cancers, and a 35% reduction for gastrointestinal cancers.

20-year reductions in risk of death were approximately 10% for prostate cancer, 30% for lung cancer, 40% for colorectal cancer and 60% for esophageal cancer.

Benefit in lung and esophageal cancer was confined to adenocarcinomas, most commonly observed in non-smokers.

The dose of daily aspirin did not affect results; results were consistent with low-dose aspirin (75mg/day or greater). Additionally, gender and smoking status did not affect results. Results suggested that the 20-year reduction in death benefit increased with age.

The authors also found that daily aspirin reduced all-cause mortality (factoring in fatal bleeds) during the trials by about 10%. Subsequently, there were further delayed reductions in cancer deaths, but no continuing excess risk of bleeding.

1) Rothwell PM, et al. Effect of daily aspirin on long-term risk of death due to cancer: analysis of individual patient data from randomised trials. The Lancet, published Online December 7, 2010.

Source: World Heart Federation