Small dose of aspirin can ward off bowel cancer
Taking a quarter of an aspirin pill every day can help prevent bowel cancer, with the benefits growing the longer it is taken, scientists claim.
A daily 75mg dose – lower than the recommended dose for a child – can provide significant protective effects after just one year, researchers said.
Even people not considered to be at high risk of the disease could benefit from taking the painkiller, they said, regardless of their diet or lifestyle.
According to the study, taking 75mg of aspirin every day for between one and three years cut the chances of developing bowel cancer by 19 per cent.
After three to five years the risk decreased by 24 per cent, and after five to ten years of taking the drug the chance of bowel cancer was down by 31 per cent.
There was no noticeable benefit in taking aspirin or any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, for people who already had bowel cancer.
The disease, which is the second most common cause of cancer death in the world, kills more than 16,000 people in Britain every year, with 38,500 cases diagnosed in annually.
Previous research had indicated that aspirin protects against bowel cancer, but it was unclear what the most effective dose was, and how often it should be taken.
The usual aspirin dose for an adult, when used for pain relief, is between 300mg and 900mg.
NSAIDs have previously been linked to an increased risk of internal bleeding.
But the study of 2,800 people with bowel cancer and 3,000 healthy people, published in the journal Gut, showed that a much smaller dose of just 75mg could provide significant protection against the disease.
The same dose is sometimes recommended for people recovering from heart attacks and stroke.
Some 18 per cent of healthy people studied said they were taking a low dose of aspirin, or other NSAIDs, at least four times a month, along with 16 per cent of those who had bowel cancer.
While there was no evidence taking NSAIDs influenced the risk of death in bowel cancer patients, it did have a significant protective effect for those who did not have the disease at the start of the trial.
Steve Williamson, Consultant Pharmacist in Cancer at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “This study adds to the weight of evidence already around that daily low dose aspirin can reduce risk of developing bowel cancer.
“However people must remember that aspirin even at its lowest dose isn’t suitable for everyone, and patients should always talk to their doctor or pharmacist about the potential benefits of taking aspirin.”
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “These findings are encouraging, particularly as, unlike previous studies, this shows that even the lowest daily dose can have an effect on risk reduction after just one year.”
Tags: Cancer, cancer drugs, cancer survival, Heart Disease, NHS Deaths, preventable crisis, Strokes