Patients with colon cancer could extend their lives by regularly using aspirin.

Research suggests aspirin use after a colorectal cancer diagnosis could lead to better outcomes; previous data also suggests it can prevent metastasis in this type of cancer, a JAMA Network Journals news release reported.

Researchers looked at the tissue of 999 patients with colon cancer who had received surgery between 2002 and 2008. The samples were examined for HLA class I antigen prostaglandin endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2). The majority of the patients had stage III colon cancer or lower.

Out of the study participants 18.2 percent (182 patients) were aspirin users, out of those participants 69 (37.9 percent) died during the course of the study; among the 817 patients (48.5 percent) there were 396 deaths.

Aspirin-associated survival was strongest in patients with HLA I antigen expression. Researchers are not sure about the molecular reasoning behind the improved survival rate, but it could have to do with aspirin's effect on "circulating tumor cells and their ability to develop into metastatic deposits," the news release reported.

 "We found that the survival benefit associated with low-dose aspirin use after a diagnosis of colon cancer was significantly associated with HLA class I antigen-positive tumors. In contrast, in patients whose tumors had lost their HLA class I antigen expression, aspirin use did not change the outcome," the researchers said in the news release.

"When one sees a patient newly diagnosed as having cancer, after finishing the initial discussion and treatment plan, it is almost inevitable that the patient or a family member will inquire, "What else should he [or she] do?" Alfred I. Neugut, M.D., Ph.D., of Columbia University wrote in a related commentary, the news release reported.

"For my own patients, I have so far not recommended aspirin [for colon cancer]. But I think based on current evidence, that if I personally had a stage III tumor, I would add aspirin to my FOLFOX (folinic acid-flourouracil-oxaliplatin) adjuvant therapy. And if I feel that way for myself, should I not convey that to my patients?" Neugut said. "But for now, as far as I am concerned, when a patient or a patient's spouse asks, "What else should he be doing, Doctor?" - I will have a ready response."