A new study finds daily aspirin can lower colon cancer risk, but some doctors warn against regular aspirin use because of possible side effects.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about colon cancer and take steps toward prevention. Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but most cases are preventable with regular colonoscopies and screenings. Preventing colon cancer is always less expensive than treating the disease, so researchers are continually performing studies to test new methods of prevention.
Through a recent study conducted at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, California, Ajay Goel, Ph.D., M.S., discovered aspirin can prevent colon tumors from returning and even from forming. Goel and his research team used mice and mathematical modeling to mimic the different amounts of aspirin people in Europe and the United States take daily.
The researchers gave three different aspirin doses to mice that had four different colon cancer types. As aspirin doses increased, colon tumor cells died and fewer tumor cells divided. The team also found daily doses of aspirin prevented colon cancer from recurring.
“We are getting closer to discovering the right amount of daily aspirin needed to treat and prevent colorectal cancer without causing scary side effects,” Goel said. Goel plans to continue his research on aspirin and colon cancer, and he is optimistic about future findings. “We are now working with some of the people conducting those human clinical trials to analyze data and use mathematical modeling,” he said. “This process adds a layer of confidence to the findings and guides future human trial designs.”
Potential Dangers of Daily Aspirin
Goel’s aspirin study provides encouraging news for colon cancer research. Doctors have prescribed aspirin for decades to prevent blood clots in arteries and lower risk for stroke. It is inexpensive and readily accessible worldwide. However, cardiologists do not recommend daily aspirin for middle-aged, healthy men and women unless a doctor prescribes it. Daily aspirin can be dangerous for individuals who:
- Are allergic to aspirin
- Have had a brain bleed
- Have a bleeding disorder
- Have a stomach ulcer
- Have asthma that is made worse by aspirin use (University of Michigan)
Get a Colonoscopy During Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Call your gastroenterologist during Colon Cancer Awareness Month to schedule a colonoscopy. It is estimated that there will be 50,000 new cases of colon cancer this year, but you can prevent colon cancer by scheduling regular colon cancer screenings.
The American Cancer Society recommends all adults who are at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45, but Medicare and many insurance carriers do not cover screening colonoscopies until age 50. Talk with your doctor about colon cancer screening guidelines so you can get screened at proper intervals, and call your insurance provider to get the most updated information about your plan. Awareness is the first step in colon cancer prevention, so spread the news about the importance of colon cancer screening.