Study says aspirin may be beneficial for some colon cancer patients

Last updated: Apr 04, 2014 at 9:30am

A new study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands indicates a regimen of low-dose aspirin could be helpful to some patients with colon cancer, reducing the death rate and potentially adding years to these patients’ lives. While other studies have indicated aspirin could pose a benefit to all colon cancer patients, this study takes the results a step further by indicating that low-dose aspirin benefits only specific patients – those whose tumor cells give off a specific antigen known as HLA class I.

The study looked at 999 patients who underwent surgery for colon cancer. Most patients had stage III or lower cancer. Patients were divided into two groups: One group was placed on a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin, and the other did not receive aspirin. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the death rate was 38% in the group that took aspirin and 49% in the group that did not.

HLA antigen

The study also showed that survival rates were much higher in patients with the HLA antigen – a substance that “alerts” the immune system to take steps to defend the body. About two-thirds of the patients had the antigen.

Researchers aren’t sure why aspirin helps colon cancer patients, but they think it may interfere with a process tumor cells rely on to thrive and propagate. More studies have been initiated to explore the effects of aspirin, but for now, there are no clinical guidelines for prescribing aspirin to colon cancer patients.

Risks and benefits

It’s also important to note that even though aspirin is easily obtained in any drugstore or grocery store, it is still a drug and shouldn’t be taken on a regular basis without speaking with a doctor. Long-term aspirin dosing has its own risks, including bleeding in the digestive system.

So what does this mean for colon cancer patients? As with any medical decision, there is a cost-benefit that needs to be considered. Stage III patients – those in whom the cancer has spread to neighboring lymph nodes – are routinely given chemotherapy which potentially has more side effects than aspirin; that does not mean that aspirin should be given in place of chemotherapy, but it does help put the potential side effects of aspirin into perspective.

If you’ve had colon cancer, the key, of course, is to speak with a gastroenterologist in San Antonio to understand if low-dose aspirin might be right for you. It’s also important to note that the study does not promote aspirin as a means of preventing cancer.

Learn more.

If you have questions about colon health, colon cancer or another stomach or bowel issue, we’d love to talk with you. As a leading gastroenterologist in San Antonio, Dr. XXXX has more than 30 years’ experience helping patients get the care they need so they stay as healthy as possible. The key to great care is to get started right away. Call today to schedule a consultation and start feeling better about your health.