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Aspirin May Accelerate Progression of Advanced Cancers in Older Adults

In This Article

  • The results of the recent ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial revealed a concerning association between aspirin use and elevated risk of death among older people
  • Researchers reported that risk of death was primarily due to cancer
  • Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, senior author of the report, said that further research is necessary to determine whether aspirin might act differently at the cellular or molecular level in older people

The results of a recent clinical trial conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Berman Center in Minnesota and Monash University in Australia revealed that aspirin use in older adults may increase the risk of disease progression and early death (published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute).

Investigators designed the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial to gain insights on existing clinical data that suggest that aspirin may reduce the risk of developing cancer, especially colorectal cancer, among middle-aged adults. The ASPREE trial included 19,114 participants from Australia and the U.S., aged 70+ and without cardiovascular disease, dementia or physical disability at the start of the study.

Researchers found that although there was no statistically significant difference between the aspirin group and the placebo group for developing cancer overall or for developing specific types of cancer, aspirin use was associated with a 19% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer that had spread (or metastasized) and a 22% higher risk of being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Andrew T. Chan, MD, MPH, chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Mass General, director of Cancer Epidemiology at the Mass General Cancer Center and senior author of the report, said that these findings suggest a possible adverse effect of aspirin on cancers once they have developed in older adults. He added that providers should be wary of starting aspirin therapy in otherwise healthy older adults and that further research will clarify whether aspirin acts differently in older people.

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