Aspirin use may protect against colon cancer recurrence, reduce risk of death

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“Our data are intriguing because they showed that aspirin use notably reduced the risk of recurrence in patients with advanced colon cancer, but more research is needed before any treatment recommendations can be made about the regular use of aspirin,” says Charles Fuchs, M.D., M.P.H., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and lead author on the report by researchers from the Cancer and Leukemia Group B, a national clinical research group.

The findings emerged from a prospective study of patients who were enrolled in a randomized trial of two chemotherapy regimens following surgery for colon cancer. They all had stage III disease that had spread to lymph nodes but not elsewhere in the body. The researchers interviewed the patients about medication use and lifestyle midway through their chemotherapy, and again six months after therapy was completed.

The researchers found, based on an average follow-up of 2.7 years after the second interview, that regular aspirin users had a 55 percent lower risk of colon cancer recurrence and a 48 percent lower risk of death compared to non-users. The benefit of aspirin was independent of the dose as long as the patient consistently took the painkiller throughout the follow-up period. Those who took Celebrex or Vioxx had a 53 percent reduction in recurrence risk.

Fuchs says the next step is to conduct more research to confirm these findings and to determine the mechanism by which aspirin use produces treatment benefit.