October 4, 2018 – Aspirin and Cancer


Anchor lead: What accounts for an increased risk of cancer in those taking aspirin in the ASPREE trial? Elizabeth Tracey reports

The ASPREE trial, which compared a group of healthy older people taking daily aspirin to another group who did not, found an increased rate of death in those taking aspirin, and this was not only related to the expected bleeding risk, but also to an increased rate of cancer. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says this may be a matter of timing.

Nelson: I would wonder whether aspirin functions to arrest the development of cancers at an early stage and it affects premalignancy more effectively than it does established cancers, but at a younger age might have more benefits because it would head off the cancers and that it does not have a consistent benefit, sometimes even a hazard, in treating people with established cancers.   :21

Nelson speculates that some of the people in the trial may have had very small, undetected cancers at the time. He notes that previous studies using aspirin for colorectal cancer have shown a benefit as have studies on melanoma risk in women, and says the relationship between aspirin use and cancer risk needs to be studied more carefully. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.