Daily Low-dose Aspirin Decreases Pancreatic Cancer Risk

The risk for pancreatic cancer dramatically decreases the longer a person takes low-dose aspirin

The risk for pancreatic cancer dramatically decreases the longer a person takes low-dose aspirin, according to research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Researchers from Yale School of Public Health compared 362 cases of pancreatic cancer with 690 randomly sampled controls from a Connecticut-based population study. Men and women were recruited from Connecticut general hospitals between 2005 and 2009. They were interviewed in-person about their medication habits, including types of aspirin used (low vs. regular dose) and when they started and stopped using aspirin. The researchers also noted information such as body mass index, smoking history, and history of diabetes.

A large majority (92%) of the participant population was non-Hispanic white, and 57% were men. Just under half (49%) were former or current smokers. Less than a fifth (19%) had been diagnosed with diabetes within 3 years prior to the study.

Participants showed a 48% reduction in their risk for pancreatic cancer development. Those participants who took low-dose aspirin for 6 years or more averaged about a 39% decrease, while participants taking aspirin for 10 years or more were closer to 60%.

“We found that the use of low-dose aspirin was associated with cutting the risk of pancreatic cancer in half, with some evidence that the longer low-dose aspirin was used, the lower the risk,” Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, said in a statement. “Because about one in 60 adults will get pancreatic cancer and the 5-year survival rate is less than 5 percent, it is crucial to find ways to prevent this disease.”

The investigators considered aspirin doses between 75 and 325 mg/daily as low-dose aspirin, and was usually taken for heart disease prevention purposes. Regular-aspirin was anything above those doses, taken every 4 to 6 hours, generally taken for pain or anti-inflammation purposes. Nearly all participants (96% of low-dose patients and 92% of regular-dose patients) reported daily aspirin regimens.

The researchers concluded that the earlier a person started a low-dose aspirin regimen, the greater the risk of pancreatic cancer prevention. However, the researchers noted that discontinuation of daily aspirin use within 24 months prior to the study was associated with a 3-fold increased risk for pancreatic cancer development compared to continued use.

“Aspirin use has potential risks of its own, and thus the risks and benefits for each person have to be evaluated based on personal characteristics and considerations,” noted Risch. “For the small subset of individuals with strong family histories of pancreatic cancer or who otherwise have been evaluated to be at substantially increased risk of pancreatic cancer, aspirin use could be part of a regimen designed to reduce their risk.”