According to researchers, aspirin, which protects against heart attacks, strokes is though to block enzymes which help cancer tumours grow.
A new study now reveals that taking aspirin regularly could help beat several types of cancer.
The trial, involving more than half a million people found that long-tern aspirin consumers cut their risk of oesophageal cancer by half, while their odds of getting bowel cancer fell by a quarter.
According to the researchers, aspirin, already known to protect against heart attacks and strokes is though to block enzymes which help cancer tumours to grow.
The researchers further found that the drug reduced people’s chances of getting leukaemia, lung and prostate cancer. However experts warn that it may work less well for women and can cause ulcers and bleeding.
The study, conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong saw lead author Professor Kelvin Tsoi say that the findings demonstrate that long term use of aspirin can reduce risk of developing many major cancers,
The research, to be presented at the United European Gastroenterology conference in Barcelona this week, compared the incidence of cancer among more than 400,000 non-aspirin users and more than 200,000 people who had been prescribed the drug for at least six months.
The aspirin users had on average been taking the tablets for more than seven and a half years.
Aspirin, which has the side effect of thinning the blood, is believed to block the pathways of ‘COX2’ enzymes in the body. The molecules, which also cause pain and fever, appear to help the body generate the blood vessels needed to support the fast growth and spread of cancerous tumours. They may also help cancer cells multiply and stop the body’s natural defence mechanism which battles cancer by making cancerous cells ‘commit suicide’.
The research further found that aspirin users were 14 percent less likely to have developed prostate cancer, 24 percent less likely to have leukaemia and more than a third less at risk of lung cancer,
The authors did not find a protective effect for breast, bladder or kidney cancers.
Judith Brodie, of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: ‘Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and the second biggest cancer killer.