There has been a great deal of media coverage in the past 24 hours about a study published in The Lancet Oncology. This study (a meta-analysis of numerous prior studies) suggests that a daily dose of aspirin may reduce risk for a variety of cancers.
It is not at all clear to us why there is such media fuss about this paper. It has been known for some time that daily aspirin can have a preventive effect on several gastrointestinal cancers — most particularly colorectal cancers. It has also been well understood that the benefit of taking daily aspirin to prevent colorectal cancer has to be balanced against the gastrointestinal risks of treatment with a daily aspirin regimen, which include the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and other effects on the GI tract.
As far as we are aware, there is no good evidence to suggest that daily aspirin has any preventive effect when it comes to prevention of prostate cancer. There may be other good reasons to take a daily dose of aspirin for carefully selected patients. These include the known benefit of a “baby” aspirin each day to help prevent serious cardiovascular problems and the above-mentioned use of a daily aspirin to prevent colorectal cancers in persons at high risk for this type of cancer. However, men and women should be very clear that taking a daily aspirin for life comes with significant risk in the long term. This is not a form of preventive care that should be undertaken without first having a serious conversation with a physician about the risk/benefit ratio for the individual in question, and we would be surprised if a meaningful number of physicians was under the illusion that a daily dose of aspirin would have any impact on risk for prostate cancer.