Taking two aspirins a day reduces the risk of colon cancer by more than 60% in people with a family history of the disease, a large study shows. Previous observational studies have shown that aspirin lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancer, but this is the first randomized controlled trial to find the effect.
“This is one more piece of evidence that there are some very positive effects of aspirin, and it should be considered very seriously for people who are at risk of colorectal cancer,” says Tim Bishop, one of the authors of the study and a professor of epidemiology at Leeds University in England.
Researchers from the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds in England followed almost 1,000 patients from 43 medical centers in 16 countries. The patients all had Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition that predisposes people to develop colon cancer and other types of cancer.
The patients were divided into two groups: One group took two aspirins every day, a total of 600 milligrams, for at least two years; the other group took a placebo.
Among the findings, released Thursday online in The Lancet: Patients who took aspirin for at least two years had a 63% reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer. Women taking aspirin also had a reduced risk of developing endometrial or womb cancer, Bishop says.
John Burn, lead author of the study and a professor at Newcastle University, says: “We have clear proof that aspirin prevents cancer in people at high genetic risk. We now have new questions to answer: Will low dose be as effective as two aspirins? Should all people at increased risk take aspirin?”
Bishop cautions though long term use of aspirin could lead to other problems. “There are certainly lots of benefits of taking aspirin,” Bishop says. “But people have to weigh the tradeoffs. With larger doses of aspirin comes the increase danger of ulcers and vascular bleeds.”
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