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Does Aspirin Prevent Cancer?

Topic Overview

Many people take aspirin every day, or every other day, to help prevent heart attack and stroke. But should you take it to prevent cancer?

Research has shown that aspirin does help prevent heart attack and stroke in people who are at high risk for those things. But cancer is different.

Yes, there are studies that seem to show that daily aspirin use helps prevent some types of cancer, such as colon cancer. But the evidence isn't strong enough yet to convince experts that the benefits outweigh the risks.

You may be thinking, "What risks? Cancer scares me. I want to do everything I can to prevent it."

But there's a really good reason why you shouldn't start taking aspirin without talking to your doctor first: Aspirin is a medicine. And like most medicines, it can cause side effects—sometimes serious ones.

  • Daily aspirin use increases your chances of bleeding inside your body, such as in the stomach.
  • People with certain health problems should not take daily aspirin. This includes people who have a stomach ulcer or who recently had a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.
  • Some people are allergic to aspirin.

It's best to talk to your doctor so that you understand the possible benefits and also the possible risks.

Why might your doctor recommend aspirin?

Your doctor might recommend that you take a daily aspirin to help prevent cancer if:

  • Your risk of getting cancer is higher than normal.
  • And your risk of having a problem from aspirin is low.


Current as of: September 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology, Oncology