Miracle tablet? Experts say it's too soon to recommend taking aspirin as a cancer preventive.

Popping aspirin on a regular basis may cut your risk of dying from cancer.

People who took the over-the-counter drug for several years were 21% less likely to die of stomach, esophageal and lung cancers, according to a study in the journal Lancet.

When British researchers looked at eight trials in which more than 25,000 patients participated, they learned that two decades later, the risk of those patients dying from lung cancer fell 30%, the risk of dying from esophageal cancer decreased by 60%, and the risk of dying from colorectal cancer dropped 40%, according to U.S. News and World Report.

"This is important as a proof of principle that a single simple compound like aspirin can reduce the risk of cancer substantially," study author Peter M. Rothwell told The NY Times. "There's been a lot of work over the years showing that certain compounds can increase the risk of cancer, but it's not been shown before that we can reduce the risk with something as simple as aspirin."

Low doses of aspirin have been used for years by those who want to lower their heart attack risk. Still, experts warn, aspirin also can be risky. Those who take it on a daily basis have an increased chance of developing an ulcer and internal bleeding, for instance. In fact, a daily aspirin bumps up the risk of internal bleeding to one in every 2,000 to 3,000 people.

Dr. Michael Aziz, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital and author of "The Perfect 10 Diet," feels that only diabetics and those at a high risk for heart attack or stroke should take aspirin on a daily basis.

"People are popping aspirin like it’s nothing," he says. "Yet long term aspirin use has been linked to health problems such as macular degeneration."

Another potential risk with a regular regimen of aspirin could be bleeding into the brain, or a hemorrhagic stroke.

In the study, researchers learned that the size of the aspirin dose did not appear to be all that significant. In most trials, participants got a low dose of 75 to 100 milligrams. The patients that had the most dramatic reduction in cancer deaths were those who were in the longest lasting trials.

So does this mean you should take an aspirin a day? "Many people may wonder if they should start taking daily aspirin, but it would be premature to recommend people start taking aspirin specifically to prevent cancer," American Cancer Society epidemiologist Eric J. Jacobs told The Times. "It’s hard to assess effects on mortality from just one study."


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