Aspirin reduces bowel cancer risk but side-effects may outweigh benefits for many

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research by scientists at Oxford University suggests that taking a daily dose of aspirin can significantly reduce the chances developing bowel cancer. However, daily aspirin intake for the general population is not recommended due to the increased risks of bleeding in the stomach and the breakdown of the stomach lining. The study, which is published in the Lancet, examined data from two large-scale UK trials carried out in the late 1970s and early 1980s covering over 7,500 people. Study participants were given aspirin doses of 300, 500 or 1,200mg per day, or a placebo, for five to seven years.

The health of the participants was then tracked for up to 20 years and the researchers found that taking 300mg of aspirin - the equivalent of one pill per a day - for five years reduced the incidence of bowel cancer by 74 per cent over the following 10 to 15 years.

Professor Peter Rothwell, who led the research, said that regular aspirin use was only recommended for a subgroup of people at high risk of bowel cancer.

"They may have some risk of bleeding in the stomach, but they will see potentially significant benefits in the reduction of their colon cancer risk," he said.

Commenting on the study, Dr Kat Arney, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "These latest results add to the body of evidence that aspirin has the potential to prevent bowel cancer. But, it's important to remember that long term use of aspirin can have risks as well as benefits and people should not take regular large doses over a long period of time without proper medical advice. "Poor diet can contribute to bowel cancer risk. Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help to reduce your risk."