, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 945–956 | Cite as

NSAIDs and Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention

  • Kate Jolly
  • Kar K. Cheng
  • Michael J. S. Langman
Review Article


Numerous studies report the relationship between aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and cancer incidence, in particular for colorectal cancer. This paper systematically reviews the evidence of the effect of aspirin and other NSAIDs on the primary prevention of colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers in the general population.

In 25 investigations of NSAIDs and colorectal cancer, 23 observational studies reported a relative risk reduction but estimates vary widely. Cohort studies generally indicate lesser reductions than case-control studies suggesting possible biases in the latter. Clear evidence of a dose relationship generally appears lacking but data do not indicate useful effects of aspirin in cardioprophylactic doses. Differences have otherwise not been detected between aspirin and other NSAIDs, nor between non-aspirin NSAIDs. There is some evidence that the risk of colorectal cancer reduces with increased duration of NSAID use. The lower incidence of oesophageal and gastric cancers results in smaller numbers of cases in the studies reporting these cancers, particularly in the cohort studies. The trend is for a risk reduction for oesophageal and gastric cancers in people taking NSAIDs, which is more likely to be statistically significant in the case-control studies. A very small number of observational studies have reported the relationship between NSAIDs and the incidence of pancreatic, gallbladder and liver cancers. These show no consistent relationship.

In view of the inadequate information about optimal dose and duration of NSAIDs for colorectal cancer reduction, and the adverse effects of NSAIDs, we are not yet in a position to recommend NSAIDs for the primary prevention of colorectal cancer in the general population.



Professor Langman has acted as a consultant for Merck Sharp and Dohme. Any payment received goes to the University of Birmingham.


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate Jolly
    • 1
  • Kar K. Cheng
    • 1
  • Michael J. S. Langman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and EpidemiologyUniversity of BirminghamEdgbastonUK
  2. 2.Department of MedicineUniversity of BirminghamUK

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