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Aspirin significantly reduces cancer risk, new study finds

By John Von Radowitz

Healthy people should be encouraged to take a daily dose of aspirin to ward off cancer, according to the leader of a new study highlighting the drug's benefits.

The research shows that long-term use of aspirin significantly reduces the risk of developing cancers, mostly affecting the digestive tract, and dying from them.

If everyone in the UK aged 50 to 64 took aspirin for 10 years an estimated 130,357 cancer deaths could be avoided over two decades, the study found. A further 9,473 fatal heart attacks would also be prevented.

But population-wide aspirin use would be expected to cause just under 18,000 deaths over 20 years, mainly due to internal bleeding and strokes. However, the scientists believe the scales are tipped firmly towards aspirin.

Lead researcher Professor Jack Cuzick, head of Queen Mary, University of London's Centre for Cancer Prevention, stopped short of urging GPs to prescribe aspirin to healthy patients but added: "I think they should recommend it."

The research pulled together all the available data from reviews and clinical trials looking at both the good and bad effects of preventative use of aspirin.

Prof Cuzick's team found that taking the drug for 10 years could cut bowel cancer incidence by 35% and deaths by 40%.

Rates of stomach and oesophageal cancer were reduced by 30% and deaths from them by 35% and 50% respectively.

Taking the drug lowered rates of lung and prostate cancer by 5% and 10%, and deaths from both by 15%. It reduced breast cancer incidence by 10% and mortality by 5%. While aspirin use cut heart attack risk by 18%, it only led to a 5% reduction in heart attack deaths.

Overall, rates of serious or fatal bleeding in the gut due to the blood-thinning effects of aspirin were very low under the age of 70, but rose sharply after that age.

The drug also raised the risk of peptic ulcer by 30% to 60%, and the chances of dying from a haemorrhagic stroke by 21%.

Prof Cuzick said: "Until our study, where we analysed all the available evidence, it was unclear whether the pros of taking aspirin outweighed the cons."

The research, published in the journal Annals Of Oncology, covered more than 200 clinical trials and other studies.

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