Aspirin may lower colorectal cancer risk, study says

August 15, 1994|By Newsday

A new study has found evidence that regular aspirin use reduces the risk of getting colorectal cancer, but researchers say there are still too many questions for them to recommend taking it regularly.

"We think the study adds more evidence that there is a link," said Dr. Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard Medical School, the study's lead researcher. "But I don't think we're close to making a recommendation. "

Dr. Giovannucci said that because the study was not specifically designed to look at aspirin use, it was unclear how much of it was taken by the men in the study.

Looking at questionnaires answered by 47,900 male health professionals in 1986, 1988 and 1990, the researchers found that those who reported using aspirin two or more times a week were 32 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer. Their risk of developing metastatic colorectal cancer -- cancer that has spread -- was reduced by half, according to the study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

About 149,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and 56,000 will die from it, making it the third-leading cause of cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

Several other large epidemiological studies have found a 30 percent to 50 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer with regular aspirin use. But the only clinical trial so far did not confirm those findings. Taking low doses of aspirin regularly has also been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Giovannucci said that while it was unclear how aspirin works to prevent cancer, "if there is something, it is certainly not unique to aspirin." Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to reduce risk of colorectal cancer.

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