A RETIRED top doctor from Wearside today spoke of his concern after a study revealed that taking an aspirin tablet a day could stave off deadly cancers.
The research, carried out by a team at Queen Mary, University of London’s Centre for Cancer Prevention, shows that long-term use of aspirin significantly reduces the risk of developing major cancers, such as of the bowel and stomach.
If everyone in the UK aged 50 to 64 took aspirin for 10 years an estimated 130,357 cancer deaths could be avoided over two decades, the study found.
A further 9,473 fatal heart attacks would also be prevented.
On the other side of the equation, population-wide aspirin use would be expected to cause just under 18,000 deaths over 20 years, mainly due to internal bleeding and strokes.
But former Sunderland doctor Roger Ford said that there are serious risks of taking an aspirin daily that should be taken into account.
“The idea that low dose aspirin taken over 5 to 10 years may reduce a small number of cancer-related deaths has been debated in the medical profession for some time,” said Dr Ford, who last year stepped down from full-time practice at St Bede Medical Centre and is now honorary secretary of Sunderland Local Medical Committee.
“However, aspirin can also have significant adverse reactions, including death from bleeding.
“The case for such population-based medication on a vast scale is probably not yet firmly established enough to recommend to everyone.”
Professor Jack Cuzick, who lead the research team, stopped short of saying that GPs should prescribe aspirin to healthy patients, but admitted: “I think they should recommend it.”
Prof Cuzick added: “It has long been known that aspirin - one of the cheapest and most common drugs on the market - can protect against certain types of cancer.
“But until our study, where we analysed all the available evidence, it was unclear whether the pros of taking aspirin outweighed the cons.
“Whilst there are some serious side effects that can’t be ignored, taking aspirin daily looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and will probably be much easier to implement.”