Colon cancer patients who take aspirin regularly shortly after diagnosis tend to live for longer, researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre, the Netherlands, reported in the British Journal of Cancer.

The authors explain that NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) have been known to have a preventive role with regards to colorectal cancer, and in particular, aspirin. Recently, some studies and experts have suggested that regular aspirin may have a therapeutic role too. However, studies so far have not been conclusive.

Dr Gerrit-Jan Liefers and team set out to determine what the therapeutic effect of aspirin/NSAIDs as adjuvant treatment might be on colorectal cancer patients after diagnosis. They carried out an observational population-based study.

They gathered prescription data from the PHARMA linkage systems, focusing on patients who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer (1998-2007). They selected people from the Eindhoven Cancer Registry, a population-based cancer registry.

Patients were classified into:

  • Pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis – aspirin/NSAID users
  • Pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis – non-aspirin/NSAID users
  • Just post-diagnosis – aspirin/NSAID users
  • Just post-diagnosis – non-aspirin/NSAID users

Out of 4,481 participants:

  • 26% (1,1176) of them were non-aspirin/NSAID users
  • 47% (2,086) of them were pre- and post-diagnosis aspirin/NSAID users
  • 27% (1,219) of them were just post-diagnosis aspirin/NSAID users

Those taking a daily dose of aspirin for nine months or more after diagnosis had a 30% lower risk of cancer-related death compared to non-users. Even taking aspirin regularly for any length of time reduced the risk of death (by 23%).

The authors concluded in an Abstract in the same journal:

“Aspirin use initiated or continued after diagnosis of colon cancer is associated with a lower risk of overall mortality. These findings strongly support initiation of a placebo-controlled trial that investigates the role of aspirin as adjuvant treatment in colon cancer patients.”

This news comes a month after The Lancet published the results of three studies suggesting that a low dose of aspirin may help reduce cancer risk.

Written by Christian Nordqvist