Aspirin use appears to reduce the risk of Barrett's esophagus (BE), the largest known risk factor for esophageal cancer, according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.
"The protective effect of aspirin use appears robust because the analyses suggests a dose-response relationship in which high-dose aspirin was significantly associated with decreased Barrett's esophagus risk," said Chin Hur, MD, MPH, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Technology Assessment and lead author of this study. "It would not be advisable at this time for patients to start taking aspirin, particularly at higher doses, if preventing Barrett's esophagus is the only goal. However, if additional data confirms our findings and an individual at high risk for development of Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer also could derive additional benefits, most notably cardiovascular, aspirin could be a consideration."
Dr. Hur and his team of researchers analyzed characteristics of 434 BE patients for factors that might be used in screening and management. In addition to finding that those taking aspirin were 44 percent less likely to have BE, they also found that men were more than three times more likely to develop BE than women.
The incidence of esophageal cancer has been increasing at an alarming rate during the past few decades; current attempts at targeted screening for this type of cancer focus on identifying BE. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly aspirin, have been associated with reduced esophageal cancer incidence. Although there have been many studies analyzing NSAID and aspirin chemoprevention for esophageal cancer or BE progression to this cancer, few have explored NSAIDs for BE prevention.