An aspirin a day can keep cancer away, claims new study
Scientists say hundreds of thousands of deaths could be prevented by a small daily dose of aspirin
An examination of 200 medical studies has found that a daily aspirin could reduce the chances of developing bowel and stomach cancers.
Scientists predict that more than 120,000 deaths could be prevented over the next 20 years if everyone in the UK aged between 50 and 64 took a small dose of the drug every day for ten years. However, this is balanced with an estimated 18,000 deaths from the drug's side-effects, such as internal bleeding.
Aspirin reduced the number of cases and deaths from bowel, stomach and oesophageal cancer by around 30 to 40 per cent. There was also weaker evidence to suggest that it reduced deaths from breast, prostate and lung cancer.
"Whilst there are some serious side-effects that can't be ignored, taking aspirin daily looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and will probably be much easier to implement," says research leader Professor Jack Cuzick, from Queen Mary University of London.
The study found that the drug needed to be taken for five years before the benefits were gained and researchers advised people to seek medical advice before taking it.
"Exactly how aspirin protects against cancer is unknown," says the BBC. "Scientists suggest it may reduce inflammation or act on blood cells that would otherwise encourage the spread of the disease."
Cuzick believes the benefits "substantially" outweigh any side-effects, which can include bleeding, stomach ulcers and even strokes. People with blood disorders and frequent smokers or drinkers are said to be more likely to suffer side-effects of taking a blood-thinning medication such as aspirin.
Cuzick predicts that if 1,000 60-year-olds took the drug for a decade, a further decade later there would be two extra deaths from bleeding, but 16 people would be saved from cancer-related deaths and one fatal heart attack would be prevented.