Aspirin Use and Common Cancer Risk: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials

Front Oncol. 2021 Jun 18:11:690219. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.690219. eCollection 2021.


Background: Whether aspirin use can decrease or increase cancer risk remains controversial. In this study, a meta-analysis of cohort studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were conducted to evaluate the effect of aspirin use on common cancer risk.

Method: Medline and Embase databases were searched to identify relevant studies. Meta-analyses of cohort studies and RCTs were performed to assess the effect of aspirin use on the risk of colorectal, gastric, breast, prostate and lung cancer. Cochran Q test and the I square metric were calculated to detect potential heterogeneity among studies. Subgroup meta-analyses according to exposure categories (frequency and duration) and timing of aspirin use (whether aspirin was used before and after cancer diagnosis) were also performed. A dose-response analysis was carried out to evaluate and quantify the association between aspirin dose and cancer risk.

Results: A total of 88 cohort studies and seven RCTs were included in the final analysis. Meta-analyses of cohort studies revealed that regular aspirin use reduced the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) (RR=0.85, 95%CI: 0.78-0.92), gastric cancer (RR=0.67, 95%CI: 0.52-0.87), breast cancer (RR=0.93, 95%CI: 0.87-0.99) and prostate cancer (RR=0.92, 95%CI: 0.86-0.98), but showed no association with lung cancer risk. Additionally, meta-analyses of RCTs showed that aspirin use had a protective effect on CRC risk (OR=0.74, 95%CI: 0.56-0.97). When combining evidence from meta-analyses of cohorts and RCTs, consistent evidence was found for the protective effect of aspirin use on CRC risk. Subgroup analysis showed that high frequency aspirin use was associated with increased lung cancer risk (RR=1.05, 95%CI: 1.01-1.09). Dose-response analysis revealed that high-dose aspirin use may increase prostate cancer risk.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence for low-dose aspirin use for the prevention of CRC, but not other common cancers. High frequency or high dose use of aspirin should be prescribed with caution because of their associations with increased lung and prostate cancer risk, respectively. Further studies are warranted to validate these findings and to find the minimum effective dose required for cancer prevention.

Keywords: aspirin; cancer; cohort study; meta-analysis; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review