Aspirin, NSAIDs Won't Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Study

U.S. task force recommendation says potential harm outweighs benefits

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TUESDAY, March 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do not prevent colorectal cancer, and people should not take these drugs to try to prevent the disease, a new U.S. report says.

Members of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed the most current research and concluded that the potential harm -- such as increased risk of stroke, intestinal bleeding and kidney failure -- of taking more than 300 milligrams a day of aspirin or NSAIDs outweighs the potential benefits in terms of preventing colorectal cancer.

The recommendation is published in the March 6 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Individuals taking high doses of aspirin or NSAIDs to prevent colorectal cancer should be aware of the potential harms and discuss them with their clinician," Dr. Ned Calonge, task force chairman and chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Information, said in a prepared statement.

The task force said it did find good evidence that taking low doses of aspirin (usually less than 100 mg per day) may reduce the risk of heart disease. People taking aspirin to prevent other conditions, such as heart disease, should continue to discuss the benefits with their doctors, Calonge said.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in American men and women and is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, claiming an estimated 56,000 lives a year. Between 5 percent and 6 percent of people, the majority of whom are over age 50, develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime, according to background information in the study.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent panel of prevention and primary-care experts, and its recommendations are considered the gold standard for clinical preventive services. The task force receives technical and administrative support from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The task force based its recommendations on a report from a team led by Dr. David Moher, director of AHRQ's Evidence-based Practice Center at the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colorectal cancer prevention.

SOURCE: U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, news release, March 5, 2007

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