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An Aspirin a Day can Cut Cancer Risk, Scientific Review Finds

Update Date: Aug 06, 2014 10:12 AM EDT

According to a new scientific review, taking an aspirin a day might be able to reduce people's chances of developing cancer, particularly cancers tied to the digestive tract. The researchers added that this drug regimen could also reduce people's risk of dying from different cancers.

In this review, the researchers headed by Professor Jack Cuzick, head of Queen Mary, University of London's Center for Cancer Prevention examined all available data taken from more than 200 reviews and clinical trials. They looked at both the pros and cons of taking aspirin as a preventive measure and concluded that an aspirin a day can be good for overall health.

"It has long been known that aspirin - one of the cheapest and most common drugs on the market - can protect against certain types of cancer. But until our study, where we analyzed all the available evidence, it was unclear whether the pros of taking aspirin outweighed the cons," Cuzick said reported by HuffPost UK.

The researchers estimated that if every adult from the United Kingdom between the ages of 50 and 64 took an aspirin a day for 10 years, around 130,357 deaths tied to cancer could be prevented over the span of 20 years. They estimated that 9,473 fatal heart attacks could also be avoided. The team reported that a long-term aspirin regimen does not come without health problems. They estimated that a little less than 18,000 people would die over 20 years due to internal bleeding and strokes linked to aspirin use. However, the risk of bleeding was lower in people under the age of 70.

An aspirin a day for 10 years specifically cut bowel cancer incidence and death rates by 35 percent and 40 percent respectively. The regimen cut stomach cancer rate by 30 percent and stomach cancer death rate by 35 percent. The esophageal cancer rate fell by 30 percent while the death rate dropped by 50 percent. The drug did not have as strong of an effect on reducing the incidence and death rates of lung, prostate and breast cancer.

An aspirin regimen cut risk of heart attack by 18 percent. However it only cut the death rate caused by heart attacks by five percent. On the other hand, it increased risk of peptic ulcer by 30 to 60 percent. It also increased the death rate caused by a hemorrhagic stroke by 21 percent.

"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," Cuzick concluded.

The study was published in the journal, Annals of Oncology.

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