Too soon for ‘aspirin doubles cancer survival’ claim

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Aspirin pills: cheap and with proven benefits, but do they improve your chance of surviving cancer?

“Aspirin could almost double your chance of surviving cancer,” the Daily Mail reports, with most of the newspapers featuring similar claims.

According to the Mail: “Three quarters of people with bowel, stomach or throat cancer were still alive five years later, and aspirin is the ‘magic bullet’ that should be prescribed as soon as someone is diagnosed.”

Unfortunately, the claims appearing in the media are based solely on a press release and abstract of research being presented at a scientific conference. This means the results and conclusions won’t have been verified by independent experts and we don’t have all the information to appraise such research. For these reasons, we need to be cautious about this finding.

Compounding our scepticism over these reports are apparent inconsistencies between the sources used to compile the stories, including survival figures we cannot verify from the information available.

It’s also worth noting that the type of study means we can’t prove aspirin itself was improving people’s chances of surviving gastrointestinal cancer.

With those notes of caution in mind, and as further information comes to light, it may be the case that this is a cheap, readily-available drug that can be used to help people diagnosed with cancer to survive longer.

However, it should be noted that the researchers have not found that taking aspirin can stop you getting cancer. Also, taking aspirin regularly carries a risk of side effects, such as internal bleeding. It would need to be ensured that the benefits of the drug in terms of cancer survival outweighed these risks.

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