What Research Suggests About Aspirin's Potential To Lower Colon Cancer Risk

Aspirin's role in cancer prevention and treatment has long been a popular topic of medical studies.

Most recently, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed women who take a small dose of aspirin had up to 20% decreased risk of developing ovarian cancer, again reigniting the discussion around aspirin's cancer-fighting potential.

Previous research focused specifically on aspirin's effect on colon cancer risk produced mixed, but mostly positive results.

For example, an a July 2013 study, researchers found women who took an aspirin every other day for 18 years experienced a drop in colon cancer risk of about 20%. A 2012 British study produced similar findings.

But why might aspirin have this effect on colon cancer risk?

Later in 2013, researchers attempted to answer that question, explaining that "interaction of the body's immune system with the effect of aspirin on platelets (cell fragments in the blood that are involved in clotting)" might cause the decreased risk. Aspirin's capacity as an anti-inflammatory drug may also help to explain its cancer-fighting potential.

However, no matter how strong the case for aspirin use might be, many physicians remain wary of recommending widespread use because of the side effects it produces, including (among others) gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers. Stanford associate professor of medicine Dr. Randall Stafford explained these reservations to The San Francisco Chronicle:

"The ideal candidate for aspirin is the person who has more than average risk of developing stroke or heart attack or cancer," Stafford said. "If I'm an individual at very low risk of developing any one of those three outcomes, it may well be aspirin is going to cause more harm than benefit."

As always, make sure your doctor helps you understand the risks and benefits of any medical decision before making it.


  • For more on the health benefits and risks of aspirin, I recommend listening to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute's most recent podcast, in which researcher Dr. Isra Levy discusses the subject.
  • Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School answers the question, "Do I have colon cancer if my doctor found a polyp during my colonoscopy?"
  • Findings from another study suggest a second colonoscopy at an expert center may be necessary in order to reevaluate patients referred for surgical resection (via Healio Gastroenterology)
  • Here's a list of all the reasons it's bad to sit (including increased risk of colon cancer). (via TIME)

  • Harrowing story: "I never wanted to be a cancer expert, but then my wife got sick." (via The Washington Post)

  • The founder and executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network walks you through her preperation for a colonoscopy. (via The Huffington Post)

  • Madison, Wisconsin-area folks: The UW Carbone Cancer Center's Strollin' Colon, an interactive colon exhibit, made it's way around town this week. Check out some pictures on the center's Facebook Page.


  • We published our monthly Hero of the Month Q&A session with Dress in Blue Day founder and colon cancer advocate Anita Mitchell. Read it here.

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Creative Commons image via cpradi

Topics: Colon Cancer News and Information

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