Long-term, regular aspirin use is associated with a reduced risk of some cancers, according to new research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, held April 18-22, 2015. The research was led by Yin Cao, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Study participants who reported consuming two or more aspirin tablets per week (325 milligrams) had a 5% decreased risk for overall cancer. The lowered risk was driven mainly by a 20% reduction in gastrointestinal cancers, including a 25% drop in colorectal cancers, and a 14% decline in gastroesophageal cancers. The researchers found no association between regular aspirin use and a decreased risk of other cancers, specifically, breast, lung, or prostate cancers.

In order to benefit from aspirin, participants had to take it for at least 16 years, and the benefit was no longer seen within four years of stopping.

Cao cautioned that it is still too early to recommend widespread use of aspirin for cancer prevention. Additionally, Cao said patients and doctors need to consider the potential risks of taking aspirin, including gastrointestinal bleeding.

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