News Feature | June 30, 2014

Aspirin Put On The Front Lines For Cancer Prevention

By Lori Clapper

People who take aspirin daily for up to 10 years could reduce their risk of pancreatic cancer by nearly 50 percent, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Dosage could make the difference

This most recent study differs from those in the past because participants used a low-dose aspirin for the designated time spans, rather than regular or high-doses of the pain reliever. According to Risch, the higher dosages clouded the results because the aspirin might have actually relieved pain that could have been related to pancreatic cancer.

A dose of 75 to 325 mg of aspirin per day was considered a low-dose. A dose higher than that, generally taken every four to six hours, was considered a regular-dose of aspirin which is taken for pain or anti-inflammation purposes.

The following results were found in both men and women:

  • For those taking a low-dose of aspirin for six years or less, there was a 39 percent reduction in risk
  • There was a 60 percent reduction in risk for those who took low-dose aspirin for more than 10 years

Fifty-seven percent of study participants were men, 92 percent were non-Hispanic white, 49 percent were former or current smokers, and 19 percent had been diagnosed with diabetes within the three years before the study.  All were recruited from 30 general hospitals in Connecticut between 2005 and 2009. There were 362 pancreatic cancer cases and 690 controls, the AACR reported.

“Because about one in 60 adults will get pancreatic cancer and the five-year survival rate is less than five percent, it is crucial to find ways to prevent this disease.”  Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD, lead researcher and professor of epidemiology at Yale, said.

Differing opinions remain

Eric Jacobs, strategic director for pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, told WebMD that there is still not enough proof that aspirin will reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer and warns that nobody should take it solely for that purpose. But he added that the research is intriguing.

"While long-term regular aspirin use lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, evidence is much too limited to draw conclusions about aspirin and pancreatic cancer. We do know, however, that the most important ways to lower risk of ever getting pancreatic cancer are to avoid smoking and maintain a healthy weight," Jacobs said.

Still, Risch holds to the research and says it seems as though there is now enough evidence that people currently taking or considering taking aspirin to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease can also lower their risk for pancreatic cancer.