Aspirin May Lower Risk of Dying From Prostate Cancer

January 7, 2016

Men who take aspirin regularly may have a lower risk of dying from prostate cancer, according to results of a large observational study.

Men who take aspirin may have a lower risk of dying from prostate cancer, according to results of a large observational study presented at a presscast ahead of the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Genitourinary Cancers Symposium, held January 7–9 in San Francisco (abstract 306).

“Men with prostate cancer who took aspirin regularly after diagnosis had a significantly reduced risk of death,” said Christopher B. Allard, MD, of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, during the presscast.

Regular aspirin use in prostate cancer patients, defined as taking aspirin more than three times a week, was associated with a 39% lower risk of dying from the disease compared with men who reported less frequent aspirin use or no aspirin use (hazard ratio, 0.61).

The study evaluated data from 22,071 men who took part in the Physicians’ Health Study. Men enrolled in this cohort were tracked from 1982 until 2009. After more than 27 years of follow-up, 3,193 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and, of those, 403 developed either metastatic prostate cancer or died from the disease.

Aspirin intake prior to a prostate cancer diagnosis was not shown to be beneficial, as aspirin use did not appear to affect the risk of prostate cancer development or rate of diagnosis. Aspirin use also did not affect the frequency of diagnosis of high-grade prostate cancer or locally advanced prostate cancer, according to the study.

“Regular aspirin intake may inhibit lethal prostate cancer,” said Allard, “probably by preventing cancer progression.” Regular use was associated with a 24% lower risk of developing lethal prostate cancer.

These findings need to be confirmed in future studies.

“More work is needed to identify particular subsets of men most likely to benefit from aspirin and to determine the optimal aspirin dose,” said Allard.

According to Allard, this study suggests that men who take aspirin regularly for its effect on cardiovascular health may have one more reason to continue taking the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, but that recommendation to begin an aspirin regimen for prevention of lethal prostate cancer is not warranted based on this study alone.

“While the work is provocative, it is important to keep in mind that the findings are from an observational study where surveys and reviews of hospital records were used to obtain information,” said presscast moderator Sumanta Pal, MD, medical oncologist at City of Hope in Duarte, California. “These studies are thought provoking but are perhaps best followed by formal clinical trials where we can compare use of aspirin either to no treatment or a placebo.”

The study was partly funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute.