Low-Dose Aspirin Could Increase Cancer Survival Rates

Patients with colorectal, breast, or prostate cancers taking low-dose aspirin along with chemotherapy are shown to have better survival rates.

A recent study found a decreased mortality rate and less cancer spread in patients taking low-dose aspirin along with chemotherapy.

"There is a growing body of evidence that taking aspirin is of significant benefit in reducing some cancers," said lead researcher Peter Elwood, DSc, MD, FRCP, FFPHM. "Whilst we know a low-dose of aspirin has been shown to reduce the incidence of cancer, its role in the treatment of cancer remains uncertain. As a result, we set out to conduct a systematic search of all the scientific literature."

Researchers analyzed data from 5 randomized trials and 42 observational studies of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers in a study published in PLOS ONE.

“Our review, based on the available evidence, suggests that low-dose aspirin taken by patients with bowel, breast or prostate cancer, in addition to other treatments, is associated with a reduction in deaths of about 15-20%, together with a reduction in the spread of the cancer,” Dr. Elwood said.

Researchers also studied other types of cancer to determine if these results were specific to certain types of the disease.

"The results from 6 studies of other cancers also suggest a reduction, but the numbers of patients were too few to enable confident interpretation,” Dr. Elwood said. “A mutation -- known as PIK3CA -- was present in about 20% of patients and appeared to explain much of the reduction in colon cancer mortality by aspirin.”

Researchers expressed a concern for intestinal bleeding in patients and urge them to consult their doctors prior to starting an aspirin regimen along with their chemotherapy.

"One of the concerns about taking aspirin remains the potential for intestinal bleeding,” Dr. Elwood added. “That's why we specifically looked at the available evidence of bleeding and we wrote to all authors asking for further data. In no study was serious or life-threatening bleeding reported."

The study concluded that more research is needed to verify this new information, as well as testing the regimen in patients with less common cancers.