Daily aspirin with milk 'cuts cancer death risk'

A DAILY low-dose aspirin pill taken with a glass of milk could be a simple way to avoid dying of cancer, research suggests.

Taking aspirin for several years can cut the risk of death from a wide range of cancers by between a third and half, a landmark study has found.

Other evidence indicates that calcium in milk might enhance the drug's beneficial effects.

Scientists are stopping short of urging healthy people to take aspirin, which is known to increase the risk of internal bleeding.

But they say the new findings shift the risk-benefit balance in favour of aspirin, and could lead to a revision of medical guidelines.

Aspirin treatment to ward off cancer would probably be most effective between the ages of about 45 to 50, which is when most cancers start to develop, say the researchers.

The drug is already taken by millions of Britons at risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Regular low doses of aspirin help to prevent the changes that lead to narrowed arteries and blood clots. But in recent years evidence has started to emerge of much wider benefits from aspirin, leading to its description as a "miracle drug".

A previous study has shown that a 75mg dose of aspirin a day can reduce death rates from bowel cancer by more than a third.

Earlier this year US scientists reported that the same low dose cut the risk of men developing prostate cancer by up to 30 per cent.

The new research, the most wide-ranging to date, involved picking out cancer trends from eight studies of aspirin's effects on arteries involving more than 25,000 patients.

The findings are dramatic, showing a strong association between taking aspirin and a reduced risk of dying from a host of cancers.

They include diseases affecting the stomach and bowel, the oesophagus (gullet), the pancreas, the lungs, the prostate, the bladder and the kidneys.

During the trials, patients were taking at least 75mg of aspirin every day for between four and eight years. Significant benefits began to appear after five years of follow-up, with death rates for all cancers falling by 34 per cent and for stomach and bowel cancers by 54 per cent.

The research is published today in an early online edition of The Lancet medical journal.

Study leader Prof Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University, said: "These results do not mean that all adults should immediately start taking aspirin, but they do demonstrate major new benefits that have not previously been factored into guideline recommendations."