Just taking an aspirin every day can dramatically reduce the risk of developing and dying from stomach, bowel and oesophogeal cancer.
Scientists at the Queen Mary University London examined around 200 studies investigating the benefits and harms of taking aspirin, and found that the drug reduced the number of cases and deaths from these cancers by 30 – 40%.
Although it is not known exactly how aspirin works to protect against cancer, this new discovery could see some 122,000 deaths prevented over two decades if everyone aged 50 and above took 75mg of the drug every day for 10 years.
The scientists also predict that there would be one fewer deaths from heart attack, and possibly even a reduced number of cases and deaths from prostrate, breast and lung cancer too.
Despite the obvious benefits of taking a daily aspirin, there is however still a risk of internal bleeding – a common side effect of taking the drug.
As a result experts stress the importance of healthy individuals seeking medical approval before taking a daily dosage to combat hypertension.
Prof Jack Cuzick who led the research at Queen Mary University of London, has been taking aspirin for four years and is confident that aspirin can do more good than harm.
He said of the findings: “Whilst there are some serious side effects that can’t be ignored, taking aspirin daily looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and will probably be much easier to implement.”
There are however experts who argue aspirin should not be considered a wholly preventative drug for cancer as complications can vary and it is hard to predict who will develop side effects.
Dr Julie Sharp, at Cancer Research UK, said: “Aspirin is showing promise in preventing certain types of cancer, but it’s vital that we balance this with the complications it can cause.”