Research at Oxford University by British Researchers and other centres found that it cut overall cancer deaths by at least a fifth.
The study, published in the Lancet, covered some 25,000 patients, mostly from the UK.
Experts say the findings show aspirin’s benefits often outweighed its associated risk of causing bleeding.
Aspirin is already known to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke among those at increased risk. But the protective effects against cardiovascular disease are thought to be small for healthy adults, and aspirin increases the risks of stomach and gut bleeds.
However, this latest research shows that when weighing up the risks and benefits of taking aspirin, experts should also consider its protective effect against cancer.
Those patients who were given aspirin had a 25% lower risk of death from cancer during the trial period and a 10% reduction in death from any cause compared to patients who were not given the drug.
Taking long term daily aspirin benefits in reducing the cancer risk of the following cancer’s:
- Reduce 20-year prostate cancer risk by 10%
- Reduce lung cancer risk by 30%
- Reduce bowel cancer risk by 40%
- Reduce esophageal/throat cancer risk by 60%
Study leader, Professor Peter Rothwell at Oxford University, England, has been on daily aspirin himself for the last two years. He believes his team’s findings will have a major impact on public health policy. He adds that daily aspirin appears to be more beneficial than screening.
The researchers think that the best time to start daily aspirin would be when the risk of most cancers starts to rise significantly; during a person’s mid-40s.
Professor Chris Hawkey, President of the British Society of Gastroenterology said:
“The study from Prof Rothwell represents strong evidence that aspirin can prevent the development of cancer, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, It is of more than academic interest: it should stimulate a re-evaluation of the role of aspirin with wider use of the drug. At the same time, we are acutely aware that aspirin is not without risks. In particular, it can cause internal ulcer bleeding and patients on aspirin should take a protective anti-ulcer drug such as omeprazole.
But aspirin is not the only measure needed to reduce the risks of cancer. Lifestyle measures such as remaining slim, not smoking or drinking to excess and eating a healthy diet all have an important part to play. People should not ignore warning symptoms like rectal bleeding especially if associated with tummy pain, change in bowel habit or weight loss.”
Interpretation of the Study
Daily aspirin reduced deaths due to several common cancers during and after the trials. Benefit increased with duration of treatment and was consistent across the different study populations. These findings have implications for guidelines on use of aspirin and for understanding of carcinogenesis and its susceptibility to drug intervention.
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