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Daily aspirin use reduces risk of pancreatic cancer

Aspirin use found to reduce pancreatic cancer risk
Aspirin use found to reduce pancreatic cancer risk
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

A new study indicates that taking a daily aspirin may reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The results are especially encouraging because pancreatic cancer has a low survival rate (less than five percent after five years). Previous studies have also shown that aspirin reduces pancreatic cancer risk.

Researchers looked at data from a population-based Connecticut study conducted from January 2005 to August 2009, of 362 newly diagnosed pancreatic cancer patients and compared them to 690 participants without cancer. They evaluated any links between pancreatic cancer risk and past aspirin use.

They found that regular use of regular- or low-dose aspirin (75 to 1,200 mg daily) use reduced by half their risk of pancreatic cancer, especially over time. (People taking aspirin were taking it for heart disease prevention, arthritis, and other conditions.)

In participants who took aspirin for more than 10 years, their reduced risk was even greater at 60 percent. Conversely, if participants stopped taking aspirin within two years of the study, their risk of pancreatic cancer increased.
Previous studies have not been clear on the dose of aspirin taken, when it was started, and when pancreatic cancer developed.

“It can take 10 to 15 years after the initial stages of pancreatic cancer for the disease to be diagnosed," says senior author Harvey Risch, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, in a press release. "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."

Why would aspirin reduce pancreatic cancer risk? “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 explains.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014:

  • About 46,420 people (23,530 men and 22,890 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
  • About 39,590 people (20,170 men and 19,420 women) will die of pancreatic cancer.

These are other statistics related to pancreatic cancer from the American Cancer Society:

  • Rates of pancreatic cancer have been increasing slightly over the past decade or so.
  • Pancreatic cancer accounts for about three percent of all cancers in the United States, and accounts for about seven percent of cancer deaths.
  • The average lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 67 (1.5 percent).
  • A person’s risk may be altered by certain risk factors, such as tobacco use, being overweight, increased age, and having a family history of pancreatic cancer.