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Research has revealed that a daily low dose of aspirin can reduce the chances of suffering or dying from bowel cancer.
Taking the painkiller over several years lowers the chances of developing Britain’s third most common cancer by a quarter, according to scientists who examined data on more than 14,000 patients.
It also slashes the number of deaths from the disease by more than a third.
The effective doses of the drug are also reasonably low, ranging from 75 to 300 milligrams.
Previous research had indicated that bowel cancer rates could be cut by regular high doses of more than 500 milligrams of aspirin.
However over-exposure to aspirin can create potentially dangerous side effects, such as stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.
The new study was the first to assess whether taking aspirin in lower doses had an impact on bowel cancer.
Researchers gathered data from four randomised aspirin trials conducted to investigate the prevention of artery disease.
On average, patients were men and women in their sixties who took the pill for six years.
Over a period of around 20 years, 391 of the trial participants, or 2.8%, developed bowel cancer.
Aspirin was shown to reduce the risk of the disease by 24% and cut death rates by 35%.
The results were published in The Lancet medical journal.
Lead researcher Professor Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University and the John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “Our findings suggest that long-term low-dose aspirin treatment and sigmoidoscopy screening would combine to substantially reduce cancer incidence in all parts of the colon and rectum.”
Copyright Press Association 2010