Oxford researchers find new benefits of aspirin

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Three new studies carried out at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences have provided further evidence of the effect of aspirin in fighting cancer.

A team of researchers led by Professor Peter Rothwell has concluded that the painkiller may have preventative effects in as little as two to three years. Previous studies had suggested that it was only after between eight and ten years of daily doses that aspirin had a preventative effect against cancer.

The first study suggested that the risk of dying from cancer was 37 per cent lower after taking aspirin daily for five years.

Furthermore, the studies suggest that it may stop existing cancer from spreading and therefore be useful in treatment. Professor Rothwell called for new trials into this potential benefit to be carried out “urgently”.

However, the researchers warned that the evidence was not conclusive. Professor Rothwell, stressing the potentially harmful effects of aspirin, said the researchers were “not recommending the use of aspirin in everybody”. Side effects of the drug include heartburn and internal bleeding, especially in the stomach, which can be fatal.

But Professor Rothwell also said that “the guidelines on use of aspirin in the healthy middle-aged population certainly need to be updated”, and argued that the potential benefits outweigh the risks of taking aspirin, specifically that of internal stomach bleeding.

The research led to widespread media coverage, with aspirin being called the “wonder drug” and the “miracle drug”. The drug, which was first marketed at the turn of the 20th century, has been suggested as a treatment for many illnesses and ailments, including depression, acne, dandruff, dementia, heart disease, athlete’s foot and shingles.

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