Aspirin has been shown to prevent colon cancer, but now research published in The Lancet suggested it can prevent deaths from several other types of cancer as well.
Researchers led by Peter M Rothwell of the University of Oxford found daily aspirin reduced deaths due to several common cancers including oesophageal, pancreatic, brain and lung cancer.
The team studied patient data from eight clinical trials involving aspirin. In a meta-analysis of the data, researchers showed aspirin reduced by 20% a patient’s overall risk of death from cancer. This was due mainly to a 34% reduction in cancer deaths after five years.
This protection generally took five years to become apparent and was more delayed for stomach, colorectal and prostate cancer. The effect was generally still evident across many cancers 20 years after treatment.
The protective effect increased with duration of treatment. But researchers found the effect did not appear to increase at aspirin doses greater than 75mg daily.
Researchers concluded that aspirin should be considered in place of other antiplatelet treatment as it can also reduce cancer risk.
They added it may prove very cost effective and would ‘exceed that of established initiatives such as screening for breast or prostate cancer’.
Professor Alastair Watson, of the University of East Anglia, said: 'This study provides strong evidence that taking regular aspirin for more than five years can help prevent development of a number of other forms of cancer, including lung, pancreas, oesophageal and prostate cancers. It also indicates that the longer aspirin is taken for, the greater the benefit.
But he added: 'It is important that people know aspirin can cause dangerous bleeding in the stomach in some patients. As a consequence some patients are not able to take aspirin, and people wishing to take aspirin should first discuss it with their GP.'