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December 2018

Aspirin and Chemoprevention—Have We Arrived?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Beckman Institute, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, California
JAMA Oncol. 2018;4(12):1668-1669. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.4138

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding, 19421

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is one of the oldest and most widely used medications worldwide. In 400 BC, Hippocrates described the ability of salicylic tea to relieve fever; by the 19th century, pharmacists were widely prescribing salicylic acid derivatives. Today in the United States alone, almost half of adults ages 45 to 75 years take aspirin on a regular basis.2 For those who take aspirin regularly, there is a widespread belief in aspirin’s anticancer potential; in a 2015 study2 (prior to any formal cancer prevention guidelines), 18% of Americans who took aspirin regularly said they were doing so to prevent cancer.