The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that the daily use of aspirin helps prevent death from cancers. Dr. Eric Jacobs did the study to further investigate a report of an estimated 37% reduction in deaths among people using aspirin for 5 years of more. Data from 110,139 elderly individuals participated in the study and were followed for 11 years. There was an overall mortality reduction of 16%, with a reduction in mortality of 40% for gastrointestinal malignancies and about a 12% decrease for all others.
There was a reduction in deaths from malignancies for those taking aspirin long term as well as for those taking it on a short term basis. Although the authors claim that it is too soon to recommend aspirin specifically for prevention, Dr. Jacobs hopes that this study will lead to further studies that can help to understand aspirin’s effect on different tumors. Aspirin is especially effective in reducing malignancies in the gastrointestinal system, such as esophageal, stomach and colorectal. However because gastrointestinal bleeding and other side effects are known to be associated with aspirin, the benefits and risks of its use as a preventive treatment must be made on an individualized basis.
While a negligent delayed diagnosis of cancer constitutes malpractice, it is not malpractice for a physician to not prescribe aspirin for prevention at the current time. However, the big picture on aspirin use and cancer prevention is very positive. The only thing better than detection of an early stage malignancy is preventing one altogether.