…and why aspirin is good for you

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Image: L’Illustration, December 1923/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: L’Illustration, December 1923/Wikimedia Commons.

Aspirin, one of the most famous plant-derived medicines, is often used as an analgesic (to relieve minor aches and pains), as an antipyretic (to reduce fever), and as an anti-inflammatory. Added to this impressive list is a potential new role in reducing the risk of cancer, according to work by Peter Rothwell and colleagues (The Lancet 377: 31–41, 2011). The study – which covered some 25,000 patients, mostly from the UK – found that a small daily dose of aspirin substantially reduces death rates from a range of common cancers; patients who were given aspirin had a 25% lower risk of death from cancer during the trial period (and a 10% reduction in death from any cause) compared with patients who were not given the drug. The benefit in cancer reduction was found from a low daily dose of 75 mg. Aspirin is already known to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke among those at increased risk, but the protective effects against cardiovascular disease are thought to be small for healthy adults, and aspirin increases the risks of stomach and gut bleeds. But the latest findings suggest that aspirin’s benefits often outweighed its associated risk of causing bleeding in older individuals. However, this doesn’t mean that aspirin will counter any negative effects of taking marijuana!


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