Taking a low dose of aspirin every day may reduce the risk of cancer and slow the spread of the disease, according to a study that followed the health of more than 100,000 patients.
Research by a team at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta found the overall risk of dying from cancer was 16% lower among people who took a daily aspirin pill for up to 11 years, with deaths from gastrointestinal cancers, such as oesophageal, stomach and colorectal cancers, falling by around 40%. Deaths from other cancers fell by 12% on average.
Scientists are unsure how aspirin prevents cancer, but it may act by damping down inflammation in the body, or slowing the buildup of mutations in cells that ultimately turn cancerous. The drug appears to slow the spread of cancer around the body by preventing cancer cells from sticking to blood platelets.
Despite the evidence that regular low doses of aspirin – 75 mg a day – can keep cancer at bay, many doctors believe it is too early to encourage widespread use of the drug to prevent the disease. One of the most serious side effects of aspirin is damage to the stomach lining. This can cause internal bleeding, which in rare cases is fatal, especially in those aged 70 and older.