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Aspirin: Scientists believe cancer prevention benefits outweigh harms
Date:8/5/2014

New research from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) reveals taking aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of developing and dying from the major cancers of the digestive tract, i.e. bowel, stomach and oesophageal cancer.

For the first time, scientists have reviewed all the available evidence from many studies and clinical trials assessing both the benefits and harms of preventive use of aspirin. Conclusions of the study, funded by Cancer Research UK among others, are published today in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncology*.

The researchers, led by Professor Jack Cuzick, Head of QMUL's Centre for Cancer Prevention (London, UK), found taking aspirin for 10 years could cut bowel cancer cases by around 35% and deaths by 40%. Rates of oesophageal and stomach cancers were cut by 30% and deaths from these cancers by 35-50%.

To reap the benefits of aspirin, the evidence shows people need to start taking a daily dose of 75-100 mg for at least five years and probably 10 years between the ages of 50 and 65. No benefit was seen whilst taking aspirin for the first three years, and death rates were only reduced after five years.

However, the research also warns taking aspirin long-term increases the risk of bleeding from the digestive tract, e.g. stomach bleeding. Amongst 60-year-old individuals who take daily aspirin for 10 years, the risk of digestive tract bleeds increases from 2.2% to 3.6%, and this could be life-threatening in a very small proportion (less than 5%) of people.

Overall, rates of serious or fatal gastrointestinal bleeding are very low under the age of 70, but increased sharply after that age. Another side effect of aspirin use is peptic ulcer, the risk of which is increased by 30-60%.

The study also uncovers uncertainty over the most appropriate dose of aspirin required to maximize the benefit / harm ratio, with doses varying between 75 mg to 325mg a day in different clini
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Contact: Charli Scouller
c.scouller@qmul.ac.uk
020-788-27943
Queen Mary, University of London
Source:Eurekalert

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