Background: Aspirin has been associated to a reduced risk of colorectal and possibly of a few other common cancers.
Methods: To provide an up-to-date quantification of this association, we conducted a meta-analysis of all observational studies on aspirin and 12 selected cancer sites published up to September 2011.
Results: Regular aspirin is associated with a statistically significant reduced risk of colorectal cancer [summary relative risk (RR) from random effects models = 0.73, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.67-0.79], and of other digestive tract cancers (RR = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.50-0.76, for squamous cell esophageal cancer; RR = 0.64, 95% CI = 0.52-0.78, for esophageal and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma; and RR = 0.67, 95% CI = 0.54-0.83, for gastric cancer), with somewhat stronger reductions in risk in case-control than in cohort studies. Modest inverse associations were also observed for breast (RR = 0.90, 95% CI = 0.85-0.95) and prostate cancer (RR = 0.90, 95% CI = 0.85-0.96), while lung cancer was significantly reduced in case-control studies (0.73, 95% CI = 0.55-0.98) but not in cohort ones (RR = 0.98, 95% CI = 0.92-1.05). No meaningful overall associations were observed for cancers of the pancreas, endometrium, ovary, bladder, and kidney.
Conclusions: Observational studies indicate a beneficial role of aspirin on colorectal and other digestive tract cancers; modest risk reductions were also observed for breast and prostate cancer. Results are, however, heterogeneous across studies and dose-risk and duration-risk relationships are still unclear.