Dr. Stefan Gluck, associate chief of hematology and oncology at the University of Miami, said in an e-mail that he had already been recommending daily aspirin to patients. He said the meta-analysis findings "only confirm what has been known for a while -- the nature of the study just makes the statement stronger."
Dr. Randy Wexler, a family medicine specialist at Ohio State University, said a general recommendation would not be warranted yet, "but in patients who do have risk factors, such as family history, this would be something to discuss and consider."
On the other hand, Dr. Clifford Hudis, chief of breast medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said the studies included in the meta-analysis weren't designed to address prevention of cancer death, and hence the findings need confirmation.
"What is badly needed is a prospective, disease-specific study that shows with placebo-control that either incidence, recurrence or death are significantly reduced," Hudis said. The studies in the review, he pointed out, were designed primarily to look at aspirin's potential in preventing heart problems, not cancer. "This clearly deserves a prospective study with cancer as the endpoint."
For now, said Dr. Alan Arslan, assistant professor of OB/GYN and Environmental Medicine at New York University, patients should not try to self-medicate in the hopes of lowering their risk of dying from cancer.
"The take-home message for patients is that if someone is taking low-dose or regular aspirin it may put them at a reduced risk of death from cancer," Arslan said. "However, if someone is not already taking aspirin they should talk with their physician before starting."