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Daily aspirin helps prevent colon cancer, says study

Those who regularly take a low dose of aspirin could be reducing their risk of developing colon cancer – Ireland’s second deadliest cancer.

TAKING SMALL AMOUNTS of aspirin over a long period of time reduces the incidence of colon cancer, according to research published today.

An Oxford University research team carried out the study on the long-term effectiveness of aspirin on colorectal cancer incidence and death rates, the Irish Times reports.

The findings of the trial have been published in medical journal The Lancet.

Professor Peter Rothwell led a team of researchers that performed a 20-year follow-up of four randomised trials, originally conducted to assess the benefits that aspirin might have for cardiovascular problems.

The researchers were able to pool the results of 14,000 people from the UK and Sweden who had been taking an average of between 75mg and 300mg of aspirin for 18 years.

Results showed that, if taken in low doses over 20 years, aspirin:

  • Cuts the risk of colon cancer by 24 per cent
  • Cuts the mortality rate of bowel cancer by 35 per cent

The analysis showed that long term aspirin intake of 75mg daily resulted in fewer cancers growing in the proximal large bowel. This area is the hardest part of the bowel to reach when a patient undergoes a colonoscopy.

Aspirin is already widely used to prevent strokes and heart problems. The researchers conlcuded that the possible minor side effects of aspirin intake – for example bruising or nose bleeds – were worth it as the benefits were so significant.

The BBC quotes Rothwell as saying:

To date, for healthy middle-aged people it has been a fine balance as to whether to take aspirins, but this tips it in my view.

There is a small benefit for vascular disease and now we know a big benefit for this cancer. In the future, I am sure it will be shown that aspirin helps prevent other cancers too.

Each year in Ireland more than 2,200 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancers. About 1,000 people die of the disease in the country annually, according to figures by the National Cancer Registry.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in developed countries.

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