Aspirin does carry risks
ONCE AGAIN aspirin has hit the headlines, this year for good reason as science reveals it is cancer protective. We fall in and out of love with aspirin, but it seems the humble painkiller does far more than it says on the tin. We have known of its blood thinning properties for decades and many patients with heart disease and high blood pressure take it for this reason.
But now, reviewing all the scientific evidence that is available, researchers have shown that taking aspirin everyday can reduce the chance of developing or dying from bowel or stomach cancer. This work involved collating the data from more than 200 studies which firmly cements the significance of the findings. It revealed that taking aspirin daily reduced the deaths from bowel, stomach or oesophageal cancer by some 30-40 per cent. It is possible but not proven yet, that the same effects could be seen for breast, prostate and lung cancer too.
Five years of taking a daily dose of 75mg aspirin seems to be required for the effects. The scientists predicted that if everyone aged 50 and above in the UK took the drug for 10 years, some 122,000 deaths could be pre- vented over two decades. This is a staggering number.
Even in the two weeks since this news broke, pharmacists have already reported the predictable rise in sales of aspirin. But we must be sensible about the risks as well as the benefits.
Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research UK says: “Aspirin is showing promise in preventing certain types of cancer, but it’s vital that we balance this with the complications it can cause. Before aspirin can be recommended for cancer prevention some important questions need to be answered and tests need to be developed to predict who is likely to have side-effects.”
We know the side effects of aspirin can be bleeding within the stomach or the brain and this can be catastrophic, even fatal. In fact, as well as 122,000 deaths being prevented by aspirin, research also showed that 18,000 could be caused by aspirin as a result of bleeding.
Anyone considering taking aspirin for its newly discovered benefits must weigh this up against the potential risks.
We know the side effects of aspirin can be bleeding within the stomach