Jason from Townsville, Queensland, Australia asked:

Does taking aspirin reduce your risk of cancer?

Does taking aspirin reduce your risk of cancer?

I saw a video that said that taking an aspirin a day could significantly reduce the risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers. Is this true? Should everyone start taking aspirin daily?

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Our answer

Studies have shown that taking aspirin over a number of years may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancers, particularly bowel cancer. Aspirin is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine often used for pain relief. The use of low-dose aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease is well documented. In 2016, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommended aspirin use in adults aged 50 to 59 years as a prevention measure for cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer. The task force found that the benefits of aspirin use in this group outweighed the harms. However, more research is needed to determine the dosage, frequency, duration of treatment and appropriate age groups. Anyone considering the regular use of aspirin should see their doctor to discuss the benefits and risks based on their individual circumstances (e.g. family history, conditions such as Lynch syndrome). Aspirin use can have side effects, so self-medication without medical advice is not recommended. While side effects are uncommon and usually manageable, in rare cases they can be serious and potentially fatal. It is important to note that we can all reduce our risk of bowel and other cancers by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight. Early detection is also important and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program supports the early detection of bowel cancer through a simple test that can be done at home. Information about the program is available at www.cancerscreening.gov.au.

This page was last updated on: March 8, 2017
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