Taken together, the findings are the first to show the benefits of aspirin in lowering cancer risk in short periods of time. Earlier studies had demonstrated reduced risk after about 8, 10 or as long as 20 years.
“These findings add to the case for use of aspirin to prevent cancer, particularly if people are at increased risk,” lead researcher Dr. Peter M. Rothwell, a professor of neurology at the University of Oxford, told Reuters.
The benefits of the low-cost therapy have to be balanced with its risks, however, which include gastrointestinal bleeding. Over time, said Rothwell, the risk of such bleeding appeared to wane, but additional studies need to be done to confirm that the prevention of cancer outweighs any potential complications that might arise from aspirin’s effect on the stomach.
That type of evidence is what some experts are still waiting for. “I think he’s on to something. I just want to be cautious, and I don’t want to exaggerate,” Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, told the New York Times. “I’m not ready to say that everybody ought to take a baby aspirin a day to prevent cancer.”