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Aspirin "reduces bowel cancer risk"

Taking a low dose of aspirin every day can reduce the chance of developing bowel cancer, new research has revealed.

Scientists discovered that taking the painkiller decreased the number of deaths from the disease by more than a third.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, and the second most common cause of cancer death.

Data were analysed from more than 14,000 patients taking relatively low doses of the drug, ranging from 75 to 300 milligrams.

Previous research found that taking regular high doses of more than 500 mg of aspirin reduced bowel cancer rates. But an over-exposure to aspirin can cause potentially dangerous side-effects, such as internal bleeding and stomach ulcers.

The new study was the first to analyse 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 60s 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

The Lancet