Aspirin 'Helps Cancer Survival After Treatment'

Tim Locke

April 22, 2016

Taking low-dose aspirin after cancer treatment can help improve survival by up to 20%, according to a Cardiff University's School of Medicine analysis.

Although other studies have suggested aspirin has cancer-fighting properties, regular aspirin use can cause internal bleeding, so experts say people thinking of taking it should talk to their doctor first.

Looking at the Evidence

The findings don't come from a new trial, but instead researchers analysed data from 47 good quality studies on aspirin and breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer, with participants followed-up for an average of 5 years. Some studies compared aspirin with a dummy (placebo) treatment, while others observed aspirin use in people treated for cancer.

The timing of starting aspirin treatment varied across the studies analysed.

They found evidence that aspirin can help reduce cancer deaths, and stop cancers spreading. However, deeper research would be needed to find out whether it is more effective with certain types of tumour, or cancers linked to specific genetic markers.

The research is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

'Significant Benefit'

In a statement, study leader Professor Peter Elwood says: "There is a growing body of evidence that taking aspirin is of significant benefit in reducing some cancers.

"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."

Professor Elwood says: "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 15-20%, together with a reduction in the spread of the cancer."

He admits that internal bleeding remains a concern with aspirin treatment: "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."

Professor Elwood says more work is needed to verify the findings, but says evidence is mounting: "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."


Reacting to the study findings in a statement, Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at the charity Breast Cancer Now, says: "This study adds significant weight to the idea that a drug as simple and cheap as aspirin could help treat breast and other cancers.

"Clinical trials are ongoing to confirm whether aspirin could be added to routine treatments for breast cancer. Further research is needed to understand exactly which patients would benefit from aspirin and enable us to direct it to the most appropriate individuals.

"Anyone considering taking aspirin on a regular basis should speak to their GP first to discuss the potential risks and benefits."


Cardiff University's School of Medicine

PLOS ONE: Aspirin in the Treatment of Cancer: Reductions in Metastatic Spread and in Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses of Published Studies.

Breast Cancer Now