aspirin bottle and bottles of Motrin IB (ibuprofen) and Advil

Investigators writing in the BMJ (Dec. 5, 2016) report that a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. So does aspirin.

NSAIDs and Colon Polyps:

The authors analyzed data from 15 randomized controlled trials involving over 10,000 patients previously diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The subjects had been diagnosed with neoplastic colon polyps during colonoscopy. In such patients the risk of a recurrence is worrisome.

In the studies included in the analysis, various preventive agents were randomly compared to each other and to placebo. The trials then had people undergo colonoscopy at a later time to see whether they had developed additional cancerous colon polyps.

The Results Please:

Those taking an NSAID were least likely to develop further cancerous adenomatous polyps. Low-dose aspirin came in as the second-best choice, while calcium, vitamin D, folic acid and high-dose aspirin were not as helpful.

Regular NSAID use has risks, however. To learn more about the serious complications of drugs like diclofenac, ibuprofen, meloxicam, naproxen and similar medications, please check out this link. The authors of the new research conclude that low-dose aspirin appears to have “the most favorable safety profile” when it comes to preventing a recurrence of colorectal cancer.

In their own words the authors offer:

“In conclusion, among people with previously resected colorectal neoplasia, non-aspirin NSAIDs are effective for the prevention of advanced metachronous neoplasia over a three to five year period, but the risk:benefit profile potentially favors use only in those with a history of high risk neoplasia. After non-aspirin NSAIDs, low dose aspirin alone has the second highest probability of being most effective for preventing advanced metachronous neoplasia and, with its favorable risk:benefit profile, could be considered as an agent for chemoprevention of secondary colorectal cancer in a select group of patients.”

A gastroenterologist should be consulted about the benefit-risk ratio for any such prevention strategy.

Other Research Supports These Findings:

According to the CDC:

Colorectal cancer is far more common than most people realize. The CDC states the numbers clearly:

“Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women.”

The latest statistics show that:

  • 136,119 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 71,099 men and 65,020 women.

  • 51,813 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer, including 27,230 men and 24,583 women.

Anything we can do to reduce colorectal cancer has huge public health ramifications.

Rick Factors for Colorectal Cancer Include:

  • Eating red meat
  • Eating processed meat (lunchmeat, sausage, bacon, bologna, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs, etc)
  • Overweight
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Aging (the older we get, the greater the risk)

Taking aspirin or other NSAIDs cannot counteract things like eating processed meats, smoking or being overweight. Nevertheless, there is research reinforcing the findings found at the top of this article. People who have been diagnosed with cancerous polyps or who are at high risk for colorectal cancer should discuss the new research with their gastroenterologist or primary care physician.

The BMJ, Dec. 5, 2016

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. c

    Is it because it is a anti-inflamitory that it protects against this type of cancer? If so would not an anti-inflamitory such as omega 3, which is in fish oils do the same thing? Taking fish oil capsules would be a lot safer.

  2. Larry M
    Raleigh, NC

    Joe wrote “136,119 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 71,099 men and 65,020 women.

    “51,813 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer, including 27,230 men and 24,583 women.”

    Is this for the last month? Last year? Last decade? How can readers compare this to other ailments without knowing the answer?

  3. TOM

    I took Aleve 1x/day for 6 weeks & developed 3 ulcers in my stomach. Spent 5 days in hospital, no food, just liquids, had 3 down-the-throat ulcer cauterization’s, lost 3 pints of blood & had 3 transfusions, but, lost 10 lbs. Surgeon said 99% sure it was the Aleve. Have to take anti-acid rx pills for rest of my life and only take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain rest of my life. Don’t take Aleve or ibuprofen.


    When a study is cited, would it be possible to include information about where the funding for the study came from? I think it be helpful to know if pharmaceutical money paid for the study.

    • Terry Graedon

      Yes, it is often possible. This study was published in the BMJ which is very careful about conflict of interest transparency. They state:
      Funding: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
      So, no PhRMA money.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.