Does Aspirin Prevent Colon Cancer Recurrence?

I just read that taking aspirin prevents recurrence of colon cancer. My brother-in-law was treated for colon cancer two years ago. Should he take aspirin?

– November 10, 2005

Results of a recent study did suggest that taking aspirin daily reduced the risk of a recurrence of colon cancer by about 50 percent, but the story is a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the study was done among 830 patients who had stage III colon cancer – meaning that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body. All of the patients in this study had had surgery for their disease and were undergoing chemotherapy. Researchers asked them to complete two questionnaires about their diets, lifestyle and medication use. One questionnaire was completed after two months of chemo and the other six months after chemo ended.

When the questionnaires were analyzed, the researchers found that almost nine percent of the participants said they took between 81mg and 325mg of aspirin daily. More than two years later, when the researchers again surveyed the group, they found that the patients who took aspirin had a recurrence rate that was 55 percent lower than others in the study.

If these findings prove true in future studies, they’ll be very good news for people with stage III colon cancer. Normally, surgery alone cures only about 50 percent of these patients.

Previous studies have found that taking aspirin regularly is associated with a lower risk of developing colon, esophageal and lung cancers as well as heart disease and stroke. I take 162 mg of aspirin daily (that’s the equivalent of two baby aspirins or half a regular aspirin). However, it is too soon to say for sure that taking aspirin daily will work as well among all people who already have colon cancer as it did for those in the recent study. The research was done at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard, and the results were announced at the May 2005 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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