In addition to aiding with headaches, fever and body aches, aspirin has increasingly been found to have preventative health benefits. By thinning your blood and interfering with your body’s clotting mechanisms, regularly taking aspirin might help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Recently, a new study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital indicates that individuals can also reduce their colon cancer risk by taking aspirin on a regular basis. Subjects in the study who took aspirin no less than twice weekly realized a 27% reduction in their colon cancer risk over the course of the study’s 28 years in comparison to subjects who didn’t take aspirin this often. Unfortunately, aspirin regimens appeared to have no effect on colon cancers with a BRAF mutation, which applies to up to 15% of colon cancer cases.
Major Benefits for Aspirin Takers
During the study, researchers followed over 127,000 people from 1984 through 2012, and 1,226 of the subjects developed colon cancer during this period. About 30.5 cases of non-BRAF colon cancer were detected per 100,000 individuals among regular aspirin takers, while the same was true of about 40.2 cases per 100,000 individuals who did not take aspirin frequently. Meanwhile, the gap observed in BRAF-mutated colon cancer cases between aspirin users and non-users was too small to be considered statistically significant.
Overall, the researchers found that individuals who took between 6 and 12 doses of aspirin per week experienced a 30% reduction in their risk for developing non-BRAF colon cancer.
However, the study also found that among subjects who were already diagnosed with colon cancer, survival rates were not effected by whether the subject took aspirin.
Confirming Previous Studies, and a New Direction for Research
Previous studies have also found that people who frequently take aspirin have less risk for colon cancer. However, the study also showed that this doesn’t hold true for BRAF-mutated colon cancer cases. Dr. Andrew Chan, one of the lead researchers behind the new study, believes that the next important step in this research is to figure out what makes a person more susceptible to one type of colon cancer versus the other.
The researchers would also like to see future studies completed with a broader spectrum of subjects, since most of the subjects in this new study were caucasian.
Finally, Chan says that nobody should begin a regular aspirin regimen without first speaking to their healthcare provider. Although many people do take a dose of aspirin every day, such as to prevent heart attacks, doing so does increase your risk of experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding, which is why it’s so important to talk to your doctor first.
Although aspirin is not commonly recommended as a form of cancer prevention, a growing body of evidence in support of its anti-cancer effects may one day change this.
The Bottom Line
Taking aspirin at least twice per week could drastically reduce your risk of developing many types of colon cancer, according to a new study by Massachusetts General Hospital. However, it has no apparent effect on cases of BRAF-mutated colon cancer, which account for up to 15% of cases.
The full text of the study can be found online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.