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October 18, 2016

The Relationship Between Aspirin and Colorectal Cancer

For people who experienced a heart attack or stroke, regular use of low-dose aspirin — 325 milligrams or less — has long been recommended as a way to prevent another cardiovascular incident from occurring. Moreover, additional research has found taking aspirin may also reduce your risk of colorectal cancer after 10 years of use.

Research indicates that aspirin may reduce the risk of dying of colorectal cancer by approximately 33%. The protective effects do not appear until about 10 years after beginning aspirin use, but not everyone in the studies took aspirin for the full 10 years. The lag in effect may be because aspirin reduces the development of precancerous polyps and progression of polyps into cancer over a period of many years.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) revised its proposal on low-dose aspirin as a means of prevention of cardiovascular disease. It now finds aspirin to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, as well. The task force recommends low-dose aspirin for adults, ages 50 to 59, who are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease but not at increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. For adults, ages 60 to 69, but otherwise in the same category, evidence suggests they are also likely to benefit but must consult their physician before starting any kind of aspiring regiment.

If you are considering whether to begin taking aspirin to prevent colorectal cancer, first speak to your gastroenterologist! There are no recommendations for taking aspirin solely for the purpose of preventing cancer. Regular screening for colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps remains the best way to prevent colorectal cancer from developing.

Side effects: Aspirin can also increase your risk of serious gastrointestinal bleeding, bleeding in the brain, and rarely, stroke due to bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke). Anyone with a history of prior bleeding ulcer or other internal bleeding should NOT take aspirin in any dose without discussing with your doctor or gastroenterologist. Aspirin combined with NSAID anti-inflammatory medication (Motrin, Aleve, ibuprofen or naproxen generic, many others) increases the risk of bleeding. LOW DOSE aspirin is 81mg, not “adult” 325mg size tablet; any generic aspirin is fine for this purpose.

Written by Glenn Littenberg, MD

Adopted from Mayo Clinic Health NewsletterMD