Aspirin and Cancer

When talking to a friend today, she mentioned her idea for an EPQ – investigating the link between aspirin and cancer. Aspirin is taken by many to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke [1], although I had not heard of its link to cancer before. I thought this was a really interesting topic, and have heard many stories of doctors themselves taking aspirin daily to improve their health. Therefore I would like to share the research I have done into possible uses for aspirin.

In doing this, I found that the most potential has been found regarding colorectal cancer. A hereditary condition called Lynch increases the risk of the development of cancers such as bowel cancer, womb cancer and colorectal cancer [2]. As it causes no symptoms itself, many with the condition often do not know they have the faulty gene which causes it [2]. In a trial of those with Lynch syndrome, those given aspirin had a 63% less chance (relatively) of developing colorectal cancer, in comparison to those who didn’t take aspirin and merely had a placebo [1]. I’m sure you’ll agree this is a huge decrease, and could potentially save lives and money for the NHS. While the cost of prescribing a daily dose of aspirin for a vast amount of the population would be high, the true question is whether this outweighs the cost of treating patients with colorectal cancer. Most importantly however, doing this is likely to save lives and provide a much better quality of life (cancer free).

Although, aspirin has not only been found to affect those with increased risk of colorectal cancer. In a similar study published in 2016, the long term use of aspirin was investigated. After 6 years of taking aspirin, there was a reduction of 19% in the risk of colorectal cancer, and 15% reduction in the risk of nay type of gastrointestinal cancer [1]. Colorectal cancer however, is not the only cancer that aspirin can effect. A systematic review also found an 11% decrease in the risk of death from prostate cancer [3]. This shows taking one small tablet each day could have huge benefits on health, especially when coupled with the reduction of heart attacks and strokes.

Undoubtedly, aspirin in low doses benefits human health. However, before everyone starts popping aspirin pills, the long term effects of the drug need to be investigated and known, alongside costs being totalled up. Aspirin may have negative effects on other areas of the body yet the evidence for the apparent use of aspirin in preventing cancer, heart attacks and strokes is abundant.

[1] https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/research/aspirin-cancer-risk

[2] http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/diagnosing/causes-and-risk-factors/genetic-testing-and-counselling/lynch-syndrome.html

[3] http://www.nhs.uk/news/2016/04April/Pages/Daily-low-dose-aspirin-may-help-combat-cancer.aspx

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