25/04/2012 06:21 BST

Aspirin 'Can Cut Cancer Risk'

Aspirin can reduce the chances of dying from bowel cancer by almost a third, research has shown.

Patients who took a daily dose of the pain killer for at least nine months after being diagnosed cut the likelihood of the disease killing them by 30%.

Taking aspirin for any length of time after diagnosis reduced the odds of dying from cancer by 23% compared with not taking aspirin at all.

The study looked at 4,500 bowel cancer patients in the Netherlands diagnosed between 1998 and 2007.

Lead researcher Dr Gerrit-Jan Liefers, from Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said: "Our findings could have profound clinical implications. In this study, we showed the therapeutic effect of a widely-available, familiar drug that costs mere pennies per day.

"It's possible that some older people may have other health problems which mean that they are not well enough to have chemotherapy."

The results are published today in the British Journal of Cancer, owned by Cancer Research UK.

However, Sarah Lyness, executive director policy and information at the charity, pointed out that while this study adds to the growing evidence about the benefits of aspirin, experts do not recommend people start taking aspirin to reduce their chances of developing cancer.

Advice from the Joint British Societies in 2005 (including the British Cardiac Society, British Hypertension Society and The Stroke Association), which recommended that high-risk people over the age of 50 take a daily dose to thin their blood and protect them from heart attacks and strokes was called into question after research found the dose could lead to internal bleeding, which could prove fatal.

"There are still questions we need to answer about the side effects, such as internal bleeding, who might benefit most from taking aspirin, who might be harmed, what dose and how long people some people might want to take it for," said Lyness in a statement.

"Anyone thinking of taking aspirin to cut their risk of cancer should talk to their GP first. People with cancer should be aware that aspirin can increase the chances of complications before surgery or other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and should discuss this with their specialist."

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