As­pirin does carry risks

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

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

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