The People's Perspective on Medicine

Could Aspirin Prevent Barrett’s Esophagus?

Regular use of aspirin reduces the risk of Barrett's esophagus among people with acid reflux.
Aspirin asa pain reliever

Q. I have Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that can sometimes turn into cancer of the esophagus. Several years ago my gastroenterologist recommended that I take a low dose of aspirin to prevent the abnormal cells from morphing further into dangerous ones.

I don’t know whether he had anything besides intuition behind this idea, but I agreed and have followed his suggestion ever since. Do you know of any studies relating to aspirin and Barretts?

A. Your question is fascinating because it seems counterintuitive. Aspirin can be irritating to the digestive system, so how could it be helpful against the chronic inflammation of Barrett’s esophagus or even cancer?

Aspirin for Cancer Prevention

In reality, though, there is substantial evidence that aspirin can help prevent a number of common cancers, especially within the digestive tract. We have written about some of this research previously.

Your gastroenterologist was relying on science, not intuition. One study reported that regular use of aspirin or other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) reduces the risk of esophageal cancer (Gastroenterology, March, 2012).

A more recent analysis found that aspirin and NSAIDs decrease the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and may protect against cancer of the esophagus (Digestive Disease and Sciences, online Sept. 12, 2014).

Rate this article
4.6- 32 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Key Aspirin Information

Download important drug interaction information on this popular, life-saving medicine. What's the best and safest aspirin dose?

Key Aspirin Information
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 5 comments
Add your comment

This article is crazy. Aspirin is the reason I got barrett’s esophagus in the first place. Any NSAID can cause inflammation/bleeding in your esophagus and stomach and chronic inflammation puts you at a higher risk for cancer. NSAIDs also cause erosions and ulcers. Aspirin (non-coated) is the worst one. Try some digestive enzymes for it.

How do you find out if you specifically have Barrett’s esophagitis?

I was told on endoscopy that my stomach and duodenum had small red areas of inflammation and put on prilosec. I was never given a name for it. Later I was incidentally told I had a hiatal hernia after have a CT scan for chest pain. (I was also incidentally told that the lung nodule I had was bigger than the last CT scan. Of course nobody ever told me, in the ER, that I had a nodule months before that. )

I fear the side effects of prilosec. I have been on one twice a day. My heartburn continued and the doc casually said “go up to two twice a day, no problem.”

If I take calcium replacement is it voided out by the prilosec. So many meds we are haphazardly given, and the dangers never explained, affect other things. We are on our own to discover but the second the doc hears “I was reading on the internet”, he will take a deep breath and tell you to stop reading. How else do we know? We can’t just shut up and be good little dutiful patients if we want to know the whole truth about what we are doing to our bodies. Find a source you trust. People’s pharmacy seems like one.

My son’s Barrett’s did not show up on a scope after treatment for a few years, so he was taken
off the med for a couple of years, had another scope and was put back on the med. He was
told to take calcium supplements.

I have a problem with acid and the medicine to control this has side effects that cause problems for me. I already bruise very easily, would the low dose aspirin, being a blood thinner, increase the easiness of bruising?

Was the tablet coated or non-coated aspirin for best results for cancer prevention?

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^