Regular Aspirin Use Linked to Decreased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Aspirin may serve as a preventive measure for pancreatic cancer development.

Regularly taking aspirin may decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

For the study, the investigators enrolled 761 patients newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at 37 Shanghai hospitals from December 2006 to January 2011. A control group of 794 individuals were randomly selected from the Shanghai Residents Registry.

Both groups were interviewed in person to determine when they first started using aspirin, the number of years used, and when they stopped. Almost all aspirin users used the medication daily, according to the study.

Among the 761 patients with pancreatic cancer, 11% reported the regular use of aspirin. In the control group, 18% of participants reported the regular use of aspirin.

The investigators adjusted for factors including body mass index, history of diabetes, and a history of smoking.

The results of the study showed a history of regular aspirin use was associated with a 46% decreased risk of pancreatic cancer. Furthermore, each year of regular aspirin use decreased the risk of cancer by 8%.

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer —–fewer than 8% of patients survive 5 or more years after diagnosis––so it is crucial that we find ways to prevent it,” said investigator Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD. “We found that regular use of aspirin by a large group of people in Shanghai cut risk of pancreatic cancer almost in half.”

The investigators completed a meta-analysis of data from 18 other studies, which analyzed aspirin use and pancreatic cancer risk. The analysis found that the OR for pancreatic cancer risk and regular aspirin use decreased by 2.3% per year through the present, if the studies were considered by the year at which the midpoint of when the aspirin exposures were ascertained, according to the authors.

“These new data are consistent with what has been seen in other populations around the world,” Risch said. “Pancreatic cancer is relatively rare ­—–just 1.5% of US adults will be diagnosed with it at some point during life––and regular aspirin use can cause appreciable complications for some. Therefore, a person should consult his or her doctor about aspirin use. Nevertheless, the balance of evidence shows that people who use aspirin to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer can feel positive that their use likely also lowers their risk for pancreatic cancer.”

The primary limitation of the analysis is that it was a case-control study that relied on participants accurately reporting past aspirin use, according to Risch.