A new study says aspirin helps protect against heart attacks and colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer kills about 50,000 people each year in the United States. However, people should also know that there are some potentially serious side effects of taking a certain amount of aspirin.  

Key statistics about colorectal cancer:

• Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among both men and women in the United States.
• It is estimated that in 2015, there will be 93,090 new cases of colon cancer and 39,610 new cases of rectal cancer in the United States.
• Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20.
• Men have a slightly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than women.

The study was an observational study which showed that for people who are between ages 50 and 59 and have a 10 percent risk of heart attack and have been taking aspirin for a long time, such as six to ten years, you may have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. The study being an observational study means that the researchers were using aspirin to prevent heart disease, and determined that aspirin may also help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. For people who were over the age of 60, aspirin did not help much in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. It also did not include people who were over the age or 70 or under the age of 50. In this study, the preventive dose was 325 milligrams.

However this is not the usual recommended dose.

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The United States Preventive Service Task Force, American Heart Association, and American Stroke Association say that if your risk of stroke or heart attack over ten years is about 10 percent, a baby aspirin a day for people between ages 50 and 59 is very helpful. It also helps by reducing the risk of colon cancer by about 40 percent a year. Aspirin helps reduce the risk of colon cancer because it is an anti-inflammatory.

Aspirin is an over-the-counter medicine. Therefore, it is important to discuss taking aspirin other than for minimal conditions with your doctor. No one should be taking aspirin regularly without their doctor knowing about it. The preventive dose is 81 milligrams. Anything higher than 81 milligrams increases your risk for bleeds within areas such as the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. This is because aspirin is a blood thinner. There are about 1 out of 1,000 bleeds per year for people on aspirin.

It is important for people to understand that aspirin is not meant to replace having a colonoscopy. People should be screened for colorectal cancer regardless. The risk factors for colorectal cancer include being older than 50, African-American, having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps, chronic inflammatory diseases, genetic syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, eating a low-fiber, high-fat diet, diabetes, obesity, lack of physical exercise, smoking, alcohol use, and prior radiation therapy for cancer.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City. Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter and Facebook.