Background: Aspirin and other nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown experimentally to inhibit chemically induced esophageal cancers. An epidemiologic study of more than 600,000 adults in the United States followed for 6 years found that aspirin use was associated with a reduced risk of death from esophageal cancer.
Methods: The relation of aspirin use and esophageal cancer was examined using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) and the National Epidemiologic Follow-up Studies (NEFS). Of the 14,407 United States residents followed for 12-16 years, esophageal cancer developed in 15. Persons were classified as nonusers, occasional users, or regular users of aspirin based on their response to two questions at the baseline examination: whether they had taken aspirin in the past 30 days and whether they had used pain medications regularly during the prior 6 months.
Results: Occasional use was associated with a 90% decreased risk (95% confidence interval, 0.01-0.76) of developing esophageal cancer, and no person classified as a regular user developed the disease. Adjusting for cigarette smoking (ever vs. never) and alcohol intake (at least monthly vs. not) did not explain the finding.
Conclusion: Aspirin use was associated with a 90% decreased risk of developing esophageal carcinoma. Further studies to determine whether aspirin is protective against both squamous cell esophageal carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus are indicated.