Low-dose aspirin and incidence of lung carcinoma in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Hong Kong: A cohort study

PLoS Med. 2022 Jan 13;19(1):e1003880. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003880. eCollection 2022 Jan.


Background: Evidence suggests that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with a higher risk of lung carcinoma. Using a territory-wide clinical electronic medical records system, we investigated the association between low-dose aspirin use (≤160 mg) among patients with COPD and incidence of lung carcinoma and the corresponding risk of bleeding.

Methods and findings: This is a retrospective cohort study conducted utilizing Clinical Data Analysis Reporting System (CDARS), a territory-wide database developed by the Hong Kong Hospital Authority. Inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW) was used to balance baseline covariates between aspirin nonusers (35,049 patients) with new aspirin users (7,679 patients) among all eligible COPD patients from 2005 to 2018 attending any public hospitals. The median age of the cohort was 75.7 years (SD = 11.5), and 80.3% were male. Competing risk regression with Cox proportional hazards model were performed to estimate the subdistribution hazard ratio (SHR) of lung carcinoma with low-dose aspirin and the associated bleeding events. Of all eligible patients, 1,779 (4.2%, 1,526 and 253 among nonusers and users) were diagnosed with lung carcinoma over a median follow-up period of 2.6 years (interquartile range [IQR]: 1.4 to 4.8). Aspirin use was associated with a 25% lower risk of lung carcinoma (SHR = 0.75, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.65 to 0.87, p = <0.001) and 26% decrease in lung carcinoma-related mortality (SHR = 0.74, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.86, p = <0.001). Subgroup analysis revealed that aspirin was beneficial for patients aged above or below 75 years, but was also beneficial among populations who were male, nondiabetic, and nonhypertensive. Aspirin use was not associated with an increased risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding (UGIB) (SHR = 1.19, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.53, p = 0.16), but was associated with an increased risk of hemoptysis (SHR = 1.96, 95% CI 1.73 to 2.23, p < 0.001). The main limitations of the study were (i) that one group of patients may be more likely to seek additional medical attention, although this was partially mitigated by the use of propensity score analysis; and (ii) the observational nature of the study renders it unable to establish causality between aspirin use and lung carcinoma incidence.

Conclusions: In this study, we observed that low-dose aspirin use was associated with a lower risk of lung carcinoma and lung carcinoma-related mortality among COPD patients. While aspirin was not associated with an increased risk of UGIB, the risk of hemoptysis was elevated.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Aspirin / administration & dosage
  • Aspirin / adverse effects*
  • Carcinoma / complications
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Aspirin

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.