LONDON - Taking two aspirin a day for two years reduces the long-term risk of bowel cancer in people with a family history of the disease by around 60 percent, according to a British study published on Friday.
The finding could also have implications for the wider population, though more research is needed to determine an ideal dose for different groups of people. In recent years there has been an intense debate about the merits of routinely taking aspirin, which increases the risk of stomach ulcers and internal bleeding, but also protects against heart problems.
John Burn of Newcastle University believes his study -- the first randomized controlled trial into the effect of aspirin on cancer outcomes -- is a key piece of evidence validating the case for aspirin.
Previous research into cancer and aspirin, a cheap drug originally developed by Bayer more than a century ago, has been based on less robust observational studies. Burn's study looked at people with Lynch syndrome, a genetic condition predisposing them to a range of cancers. It affects at least one in 1,000 people and around half of them develop cancer, mainly in the bowel and womb.
His data suggests that for every 10,000 cancers prevented, there could be 1,000 extra ulcers due to aspirin. "There's a trade-off. If we could get by on a smaller dose, then we could potentially avoid a lot of those ulcers," Burn told a news conference.