Can Aspirin Lower Your Risk of Colon Cancer?

Posted on: March 1, 2016

By Jewel Johl, MD

By Jewel Johl, MD

Colorectal cancer ranks among the most common malignancies in the United States and other economically developed countries. Approximately 6 percent of individuals will be diagnosed with this malignancy during their lifetime.

The risk of colorectal cancer can be reduced by screening with colonoscopy.  Besides screening, prevention of this cancer through use of certain diets, change in lifestyle factors and use of medications has been an area of active research in recent years.

In the late 1980’s, aspirin use was coincidentally found to lower the risk of colorectal cancer.  Since then, various clinical studies have been conducted that have shown that aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce the risk of adenomas in the colon (which are precursors of colon cancer in most cases) and colorectal cancer in the range of 20-40%.  Some studies have shown an even greater benefit.  While most of the studies were conducted in patients at high risk of developing colorectal cancer such as those with a history of colon cancer or adenomas, other studies have also found benefit of aspirin and NSAIDS in people without any risk of colorectal cancer.

The way aspirin and NSAIDS reduce the risk of development of adenomas, polyps and colorectal cancer has also been studied extensively.  These medications have shown to reduce formation of cancer through inhibition of certain enzymes in the cells that promote cancer growth.

So, can aspirin lower your risk of colon cancer?

While we do know the beneficial effects of aspirin and NSAIDS for reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, the question still remains in terms of optimal dose and duration of use of these medications.  Some studies have shown benefit of using 81 mg of aspirin, while others used 325 mg dose of aspirin.  Duration of aspirin use also varied between 2 years to more than 5 years.  While the dose and duration of aspirin has varied considerably in various clinical studies, most of them have shown a consistent benefit in terms of reducing the risk of developing colon cancer.

One must also be aware of risks of aspirin include bleeding from stomach and other parts of intestine an risk of kidney injury, and therefore you should always consult with your physician to see if aspirin or NSAIDs are right for you.  Regular screening colonoscopies and healthy diet have proven benefits without major risks and should always be a priority.

Want to know more about colon cancer? March 24, 2016 Dr. Johl and other colorectal cancer experts will be speaking at a free public event at the Lafayette Library. Visit our event page to learn how to register.