Healthcare: On the agenda - Aspirin could prevent cancer

In a nutshell

Three new studies published by The Lancet suggest taking a low dosage of aspirin every day might impede or prevent the spread of cancer.

For and against

Researchers were quick to state that their reports do not provide enough proof for doctors to be able to recommend daily doses of aspirin to prevent cancer cases and deaths. Experts also warned that the drug can cause dangerous side effects such as stomach bleeding. The Lancet researchers acknowledged this by communicating that the bleeding risk was only seen in the first few years of aspirin therapy and decreased afterwards.

PR strategy

The research was widely circulated by Oxford University's Stroke Prevention Research Unit as well as published in The Lancet. Prof Peter Rothwell, who led the Oxford team, was interviewed extensively on the subject and told the media that 'every middle-aged man or woman should take aspirin every morning'.

He also said: 'It's certainly time to add prevention of cancer into the analysis of the balance of risk and benefits of aspirin.' The team was also quick to counteract any concerns over continuous use of the drug.

Media coverage

The BBC, ITV and Sky News all reported on the research in their evening slots. Nationals The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail ran the story, as did Fox News and ABC in the US.

Source: The Lancet

3-5 - Number of years it takes for aspirin to start building cancer protection

77k - Number of patients involved in the trials

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