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Two aspirin tablets a day "cuts bowel cancer risk"

A new study, published in The Lancet, says that taking two pills of aspirin a day can cut the risk of bowel cancer by almost two thirds for certain patients.

Image: John Birdsall/John Birdsall/Press Association Images

TAKING TWO ASPIRIN tablets a day cuts the risk of contracting bowel cancer by up to two thirds for certain patients.

That’s according to a new study published in The Lancet, which shows reduced colorectal cancer in regular aspirin consumers.

The trial investigated the effect of aspirin in preventing the development or spread of neoplastic cells in people who have Lynch syndrome.

Lynch syndrome is an inherited cancer of the digestive tract, and people who the syndrome have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

In Ireland, around 980 men and 750 women are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, the majority of whom are over the age of 55.

The 861 participants in the randomised trial were given 600mg (two tablets) of aspirin or a placebo between 1999 and 2005.

By the end of 2007, a difference between the the people who took aspirin and those who didn’t wasn’t seen, so the study team continued with the project.

In 2010, the participants were examined again and it emerged there had been 19 new colorectal cancers among those who had received aspirin and 34 among those on placebo.

This meant that the incidence of cancer among the group who had taken aspirin had halved.

In turn, this meant the effect began to be seen five years after they starting taking the aspirin.

The scientists went on to look at the patients who took aspirin for at least two years according to the original design, which was 60 per cent of the total.

They saw that there was a 63 per cent reduced incidence of colorectal cancer: 23 bowel cancers in the placebo group compared to 10 in the aspirin group.

The scientists looked at all cancers related to Lynch syndrome (which included cancer of the endometrium or womb), and almost 30 per cent of the patients taking the placebo had developed a cancer compared to around 15 per cent of those taking the aspirin.

The international collaboration was lead by researches at the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds and involved scientists and clinicians from 16 countries.

Professor Sir John Burn from Newcastle University who led the international research collaboration said:

What we have finally shown is that aspirin has a major preventative effect on cancer but this doesn’t become apparent until years later.

He added:

Before anyone begins to take aspirin on a regular basis they should consult their doctor as aspirin is known to bring with it a risk of stomach complaints including ulcers.

However, if there is a strong family history of cancer then people may want to weigh up the cost-benefits particularly as these days drugs which block acid production in the stomach are available over the counter.

The team believe that there is a possibility the aspirin can enhance “programmed cell death”, which would impact on cancer.

The scientists are now undertaking a follow-up trial and are looking to recruit 3,000 people from around the world. More information can be found at http://www.capp3.org/.

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