Low Dose Aspirin Reduces Colorectal Cancer Risk


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“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-associated death in the United States (and in many other countries around the world).  Diet, obesity, and other lifestyle factors are known to play a significant role in colorectal cancer risk, as I discuss in detail in my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race. 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, have been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.  Unfortunately, the majority of non-aspirin NSAIDs have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and so these drugs are seldom used, today, for colorectal cancer prevention.  (In most cases, their use for this purpose has become largely restricted to patients with inherited gene mutations that place them at extremely high risk for developing colorectal cancer.)

While high daily doses of aspirin have been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, this form of cancer prevention therapy also has significant risks, including serious GI tract bleeding and kidney damage.  Until very recently, there has been very little high quality research data available regarding the effectiveness of low-dose aspirin therapy on colorectal cancer risk.  Now, a newly published study in the prestigious journal, The Lancet, indicates that low-dose aspirin therapy can, indeed, significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

This report actually combines the long-term results from four large prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical research studies (the Swedish Aspirin Low Dose Trial, UK-TIA Aspirin Trial, the Thrombosis Prevention Trial, and the British Doctors Aspirin Trial).  Altogether, a whopping 14,033 patient volunteers were studied in these research trials, and the average duration of patient follow-up was a very impressive 18.3 years.

Overall, the use of 75 milligrams (mg) of aspirin per day, for 5 years or longer, dramatically reduced the risk of cancer in the upper colon, by about 70 percent.  While the incidence of lower colon cancer was not significantly reduced by low-dose aspirin therapy, the risk of rectal cancer was reduced by a very significant 42 percent.  Moreover, increased daily doses of aspirin (above 75 mg) did not result in any further decrease in the risk of colon cancer or rectal cancer.

The findings of this very large clinical research study represent a very significant breakthrough in our understanding of the role of aspirin in colorectal cancer prevention and, especially, in the optimization of daily aspirin dosing to maximize this drug’s cancer prevention benefit while simultaneously reducing the known (and sometimes serious) adverse side effects of chronic aspirin therapy.

As always, I must remind readers that they should first consult with their doctor prior to beginning aspirin therapy, as some health conditions may be associated with an increased risk of severe side effects when taking aspirin.



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Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author


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