PHILADELPHIA - People at average risk for colon cancer shouldn't take aspirin
or painkillers like ibuprofen to try to prevent the disease, a federal task
force advises, because of the risk of bleeding and other potential health
problems. The recommendation for the first time by the US Preventive Services
Task Force includes those with a family history of colorectal cancer.
The panel said that potential risks of taking more than 300 milligrams a
day of aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and
naproxen - brand names include Motrin, Advil and Aleve - include a higher risk
for stroke, intestinal bleeding or kidney failure.
Those risks outweigh the potential benefits of preventing cancer, the task
force said in Tuesday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The task force
said that while there is good evidence that low doses of aspirin, usually less
than 100 milligrams, can reduce the risk of heart disease, it does not lower the
rate of colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women
and is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States,
killing about 56,000 people each year. About 150,000 new cases are diagnosed
Most of those diagnosed are over the age of 50, and 20 percent have a parent,
sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle with the disease. Blacks have the highest
rate of colorectal cancer of any group.
In 2002, the Preventive Services Task Force recommended that people age 50
and older be screened for colon cancer.
Previous studies had suggested that a daily baby aspirin could prevent
precancerous polyps that sometimes become colorectal cancer. But later research
showed low-dose aspirin did little good at actually preventing cancer.
Dr. Raymond DuBois, director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in
Tennessee, said he believes the task force's latest advice is reasonable.
"I think for the general population, the risk of either
having some gastrointestinal bleeding from aspirin or cardiovascular side effect
from some of these other medications ... probably outweighs their use for colon
cancer," he said.