An aspirin a day may not, after all, be the great cancer preventative suggested by several studies.

A new research paper has found that aspirin does not offer any protection against colorectal cancer, which goes against earlier findings that suggest it can reduce the risk by up to 50 per cent.

The latest research, which involved tracking 22,000 male doctors in the US for 12 years, found there was no difference in the number of cases of colorectal cancer between those taking 325 mg aspirin on alternate days and those who took it infrequently. In all, 341 cases of cancer were diagnosed in all groups.

It had been thought that aspirin and other non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) suppressed the development of cancer cells by inhibiting an enzyme that makes resistant tumour cells.

“Clinicians should be cautioned about using salicylates or other NSAIDs for the primary prevention of colorectal cancer,” the research team from the Physicians’ Health Study concludes (Ann Intern Med, 1998; 128: 713-20).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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