A daily dose of common pain killer aspirin could cut the risk of getting bowel cancer by more than a third, says a new study. However, scientists do not recommend its continuous use due to possible side effects.
Bowel cancer refers to malignant tumors in the lower end of the gastro-intestinal tract. About 80 percent of bowel cancers occur in the large intestine and 20 percent in the rectum, with anal cancer being rare.
An Oxford University study showed that taking one 300 mg tablet a day for more than five years reduced the incidence of the disease, reported the online edition of Daily Mail.
Millions of people across the world are already taking small doses of aspirin every day to reduce the chance of suffering a second heart attack or stroke.
However, the painkiller can have serious side effects, including stomach bleeding. Researchers have warned in The Lancet medical journal that widespread use of aspirin as a preventive treatment against bowel cancer was not recommended.
But they argued that the potential benefits might outweigh the dangers for those at increased risk of the disease through family history or other factors.
Andrew Chan, of the gastrointestinal unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, said the results "provide convincing evidence that aspirin, at biologically relevant doses, can reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer".
He added: "However, with the concerns about the potential risks of long-term aspirin use and the availability of alternative prevention strategies such as screening, these findings are not sufficient to warrant a recommendation for the general population to use aspirin for cancer prevention."