Taking aspirin daily could help prevent or possibly treat cancer, several news studies suggest.
Three papers published in The Lancet adds to the growing evidence of aspirin’s anti-cancer properties.
Previous studies by Professor Peter Rothwell and a team from the University of Oxford and John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, have established that aspirin reduces the long-term risk of death due to cancer. But, it was thought that you needed to take a low dose of aspirin for about ten years before it had a positive effect.
However, their new studies suggests those taking daily aspirin could see benefits more quickly, within three to five years.
In one paper, which was published in The Lancet, the Oxford team studied data from 51 randomised trials of daily aspirin versus no aspirin. The trial was set up to see how aspirin helped prevent heart attacks.
While they found it did help reduce heart attacks, they found that a daily low-dose of aspirin reduced cancer cases by around a quarter from three years and onwards, with similar reductions in men (23 per cent) and women (25 per cent).
Previous concerns about internal bleeding, caused by regular aspirin intake was also found to reduce after three years.
Professor Rothwell said the new evidence added to the “case for daily aspirin in prevention of cancer”.
A second article in The Lancet looked at the effect of aspirin on the spread of cancer and found that aspirin reduced the risk of cancer spreading by 36 per cent, reduced the risk of common solid cancers including colon, lung, and prostate cancers by 46 per cent, and of other solid cancers such as those of the bladder and kidney by 18 per cent.
A third study, published in The Lancet Oncology, found that observational studies showed a 38 per cent reduced risk of colorectal cancer, matching well to the 42 per cent reduction shown by randomised trials. Similar matches in risk were found for oesophageal, gastric, biliary, and breast cancer.
However, while the studies showed positive results in the fight against cancer, there was still concern about the risk of internal bleeding.
Dr Andrew Chan and Dr Nancy Cook, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, said: "Despite a convincing case that the vascular and anticancer benefits of aspirin outweigh the harms of major extracranial bleeding, these analyses do not account for less serious adverse effects on quality of life, such as less severe bleeding."