(CN) – Long-term aspirin use can reduce a person’s risk of developing a digestive cancer by up to 47 percent, according to a new study that examines how the pain reliever affects occurrences of different forms of the disease.
In the United States, digestive cancers are projected to account for nearly 20 percent of all new cancer cases and more than a quarter of cancer-related deaths in 2017, according to estimates by the American Cancer Society.
In a study involving more than 600,000 people, scientists compared the occurrence of various cancers in patients who were prescribed aspirin for at least six months and in participants who do not use the drug. Participants were prescribed aspirin for an average of 7.7 years.
The team’s findings, which will be presented Tuesday at the 25th United European Gastroenterology Week, show that patients who were prescribed aspirin had a 47 percent reduction in esophageal and liver cancer incidence compared to non-users.
In addition, long-term aspirin use was also associated with a 38 percent reduction in gastric cancer occurrence and a 34 percent reduction in pancreatic cancer incidence. Use of the pain reliever also led to a 24 percent reduction in colorectal cancer occurrence.
“What should be noted is the significance of the results for cancers within the digestive tract, where the reductions in cancer incidence were all very substantial, especially for liver and esophageal cancer,” said lead author Kelvin Tsoi, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The team also examined how aspirin affects the occurrence of other forms of cancer.
While the drug reduced the occurrence of leukemia and lung and prostate cancers, it did not affect the occurrences of multiple myeloma and breast, kidney and bladder cancers.
“The findings demonstrate that the long-term use of aspirin can reduce the risk of developing many major cancers,” Tsoi said.
The pain reliever is used worldwide to treat a range of health conditions, including the common cold, muscle aches, arthritis and blood clots.
While the medical community continues to debate the use of aspirin, a recent study found that patients who stopped taking the drug were 37 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular-related health issue – such as a heart attack or stroke – than those who continued taking the drug.