July 9, 2014
Regular Aspirin Use Decreases Pancreatic Cancer Risk

New Haven, CT—The risk of developing pancreatic cancer decreases with regular low-dose aspirin therapy, and the longer aspirin is used, the farther the risk falls, according to a new study.

Yale University researchers found that men and women who regularly took aspirin reduced their pancreatic cancer risk by 48%. The report, published recently in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, showed why longer was better: Reduction in pancreatic cancer risk ranged from 39% for those who took low-dose aspirin for 6 years or less, to 60% for those who took low-dose aspirin for more than 10 years.

To analyze associations between pancreatic cancer and past aspirin use, Yale University researchers used data from a Connecticut population study of 362 newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients, comparing them to a control group of 690 people who were cancer-free. That study looked at regular use of both low-dose aspirin (75 to 325 mg per day, taken for heart disease prevention) and regular-dose aspirin (325 to 1,200 mg taken for pain or anti-inflammation purposes) from 2005 to 2009.

Results indicated that both low-dose and regular-dose aspirin reduced the risk for developing pancreatic cancer by half. Risk reduction was much higher—60%—among among those who used aspirin regularly for more than a decade.

“Reduced risk of pancreatic cancer was seen in most categories of calendar time period of aspirin use, for both low-dose aspirin and regular-dose aspirin use,” the authors write.

“Relative to continuing use at the time of interview, termination of aspirin use within two years of interview was associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer (OR, 3.24; 95% CI, 1.58–6.65).”

Background in the article notes that, while much research has been published on the relationship of aspirin to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and overall cancer incidence and mortality, the specific association between the strength of aspirin used, the time that aspirin use began, duration of aspirin use, and the development of pancreatic cancer remained unclear.

“It can take 10 to 15 years after the initial stages of pancreatic cancer for the disease to be diagnosed,” said senior author Harvey Risch, MD, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health. “So we needed to see what people took that far back in time. We considered low-dose aspirin because it has been in common use for so long, and could have been taken that far in the past.”

While more research is required, Risch suggested a possible explanation for why aspirin use affects pancreatic cancer development. “Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties, and, if pancreatic cancer starts by low-level chronic inflammation that causes some pancreas cells to lose genetic control and become cancerous, then aspirin’s effect on reducing inflammation would be beneficial,” he explained.

“Long-term aspirin use has benefits for both cardiovascular disease and cancer, but appreciable bleeding complications that necessitate risk–benefit analysis for individual applications” the authors add.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect