Aspirin is a widely available over-the-counter medication that shows substantial effects at promoting survival and reducing risk of many types of cancer, plus reducing inflammation and managing pain due to inflammation.

How do experts use aspirin?

Both medical groups and integrative experts provide recommendations for this therapy in treating people with cancer. Learn more about the approaches and meanings of recommendations.

Clinical practice guidelines

US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued an updated assessment in 2022 removing their earlier recommendation regarding the use of aspirin: “The evidence is unclear whether aspirin use reduces the risk of colorectal cancer incidence or mortality.”1US Preventive Services Task Force, Davidson KW, Barry MJ et al. Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2022 Apr 26;327(16):1577-1584.

Other recommendations

The World Health Organization includes aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) in their Model List of Essential Medicines, but not specifically for cancer.

Published protocols, programs, and approaches

Aspirin is used in programs, approaches, and protocolsa package of therapies combining and preferably integrating various therapies and practices into a cohesive design for care from these integrative oncologists, drawing from both scientific research and observations from years or even decades of treating people with cancer.

Keith Block, MD

Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Care. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009.

The integrative Block Program has recommendations to people who are at different places along the cancer continuum:

  • Those who’ve been recently diagnosed
  • Those in treatment
  • Those who’ve concluded treatment and need to remain vigilant to prevent recurrence

Aspirin is used for inflammation.

Raymond Chang, MD, FACP

Chang R. Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail. New York: Square One Publishers. 2012.

This book describes a “new therapy based on the knowledge that certain off-label drugs, nutrients, and therapies are each somewhat effective against cancer.” Dr. Chang combines approaches for added benefit.

Describe the recommendation(s) or delete this sentence if none.

Low-dose (“baby”) aspirin is used to decrease risk of cardiovascular events and clots which can be caused by celecoxib and certain Chinese herbs, respectively.

Gurdev Parmar, ND, FABNO, and Tina Kaczor, ND, FABNO

Parmar G, Kaczor T. Textbook of Naturopathic Oncology: A Desktop Guide of Integrative Cancer Care. 1st edition. Medicatrix Holdings Ltd. 2020.

This book provides information on the treatment of 24 cancers, plus the most effective treatments of the most common symptoms affecting cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery.

Dosing

Dosage has not been standardized for use in cancer care. See studies cited for each cancer type in How can aspirin help me? What the research says › for doses used in those studies.

Expert commentary

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, CancerChoices senior clinical consultant: Although a meta-analysisa statistical analysis that combines the results of two or more research studies; the results of smaller research studies addressing the same or similar questions can be analyzed as though they are one bigger, more powerful study2Huang R, Jiang L et al. Comparative efficacy of therapeutics for chronic cancer pain: a Bayesian network meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2019 Jul 10;37(20):1742-1752. lists the combination of aspirin and codeine as having strong evidence of reducing chronic cancer pain, aspirin, at least in the US, is rarely used either alone or combined with an opiate for chronic, persistent cancer-related pain. In doses that relieve pain, the side effects of long-term use—increased bleeding risk and ulceration of the stomach—outweigh the benefits. Rather, common practice is to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) either alone for mild pain or in combination with opioids for higher levels of pain.

Keep reading about aspirin

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Reviewer

Barry D. Elson, MD

Integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor
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Barry D. Elson, MD, has been practicing and teaching integrative medicine for over 40 years. He has been the medical director of Northampton Wellness Associates, adjunct faculty for Touro University College of Medicine, medical director at Commonweal, and professor of medicine at the Pacific College of Naturopathic Medicine. He recently retired from clinical practice and has been providing freelance medical consulting. He is an avid biker, cross country skier, and sailor. He currently resides in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts.

Barry D. Elson, MD Integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor

Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
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Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant

Last update: November 8, 2022

Last full literature review: September 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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