Daily Aspirin Cuts Cancer Risk, but...

Concerns remain about side effects, including bleeding

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2014 6:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Researchers in Britain are trumpeting the benefits of taking aspirin daily following a new investigation that suggests it could cut the risk of certain cancers. Data from 200 studies indicates that bowel, esophageal, and stomach cancer cases and deaths could drop 30% to 40% if people took the drug every day. Specifically, if 1,000 people took 75mg each day for 10 years, another decade after that would see 16 fewer cancer deaths and one fewer heart attack death, researchers say. But there's a big caveat: Aspirin has been linked to internal bleeding in the stomach and brain, and the above scenario would also lead to two additional deaths from bleeding.

Indeed, according to researchers, if everyone ages 50 to 64 in Britain took daily aspirin, it could save 122,000 people—but side effects would lead to an extra 18,000 deaths, the BBC reports. "Taking aspirin daily looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity," says one researcher. But he cautions that you should see your doctor before taking on such a regimen, the Guardian notes, and he doesn't recommend taking it daily for more than a decade, given a growing risk of bleeding with age. And an outside expert is less certain: "Before aspirin can be recommended for cancer prevention, some important questions need to be answered and tests need to be developed to predict who is likely to have side-effects." Previous studies show both benefits and drawbacks of the medicine—including possible blindness.

Aspirin could cut the risk of certain cancers, researchers say.
Aspirin could cut the risk of certain cancers, researchers say.   (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Dave Einsel)
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