A low-dose of aspirin could increase survival by up to 20% and help stop metastasis for patients receiving cancer treatment.1
A systematic literature review found mortality and metastasis were significantly reduced in patients who took a low-level dose of aspirin in addition to their cancer treatment. The average length of follow-up in the studies examined was more than 5 years.
“There is a growing body of evidence that taking aspirin is of significant benefit in reducing some cancers,” said Professor Peter Elwood, MD, of Cardiff University in Cardiff, United Kingdom, and senior author of the study.
“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.”
The review examined 5 randomized trials and 42 observational studies of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.
“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% to 20%, together with a reduction in the spread of the cancer,” said Elwood.
“The results from 6 studies of other cancers also suggest a reduction, but the numbers of patients were too few to enable confident interpretation. 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.
“One of the concerns about taking aspirin remains the potential for intestinal bleeding. 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 researchers stated that their study highlights the need for randomized trials to establish the evidence needed to support low-dose aspirin as an effective additional treatment of cancer.
Added Elwood, “While there is a desperate need for more detailed research to verify our review and to obtain evidence on less common cancers, we’d urge patients diagnosed with cancer to speak to their doctor about our findings so they can make an informed decision as to whether or not they should take a low-dose aspirin as part of their cancer treatment.”
1. Elwood PC, Morgan G, Pickering JE, et al. Aspirin in the treatment of cancer: reductions in metastatic spread and in mortality: a systematic review and meta-analyses of published studies [published online ahead of print April 20, 2016]. PLOS ONE. 2016;11(4):e0152402. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152402.