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Taking a daily dose of aspirin could cut bowel cancer patients’ chance of dying from the disease by about a third, say experts.

The study published in the British Journal of Cancer looked at 4,500 bowel cancer patients living in The Netherlands.

All of the patients on aspirin were taking a low dose – 80 mg or less a day – something already recommended for people with heart disease.

But experts say it is too soon to start routinely offering it for bowel cancer.

A wealth of evidence already suggests aspirin might prevent certain cancers from developing in the first place. And more recent work suggests it might also work as a cancer therapy – slowing down or preventing a cancer’s spread.

But the drug can also have unpleasant and dangerous side effects, causing irritation of the stomach lining and internal bleeds in a very small minority of patients.

In the study, which spanned nearly a decade, a quarter of the patients did not use aspirin, a quarter only took aspirin after being diagnosed with bowel cancer, and the remaining half took aspirin both before and after their diagnosis.

Most of the patients on aspirin had been taking it to prevent cardiovascular disease-related problems like stroke or heart attack.

Taking a daily dose of aspirin could cut bowel cancer patients’ chance of dying from the disease by about a third

Taking a daily dose of aspirin could cut bowel cancer patients’ chance of dying from the disease by about a third

Taking aspirin for any length of time after diagnosis cut the chance of dying from bowel cancer by 23%.

The patients who took a daily dose of aspirin for at least nine months after their diagnosis cut their chance of dying from the disease by 30%.

Taking aspirin only after bowel cancer had been detected had a bigger impact on reducing mortality compared with when aspirin was taken before and after diagnosis – reducing death risk by 12%.

This may be because those who took aspirin and still got bowel cancer had a particularly aggressive form of tumor that did not respond as well to aspirin, say the researchers.

Lead researcher Dr. Gerrit-Jan Liefers, of the Leiden University Medical Centre, said: “Our work adds to growing evidence that aspirin not only can prevent cancer from occurring but if it is there it can help prevent it spreading.”

He said aspirin should not be seen as an alternative to other treatments, such as chemotherapy, but could be a useful additional treatment.

“It’s possible that some older people may have other health problems which mean that they are not well enough to have chemotherapy. Bowel cancer is more common in older people so these results could be a big advance in treatment of the disease, particularly in this group. But we need further research to confirm this.”

Dr. Gerrit-Jan Liefers said they now planned to hold a randomized controlled trial – the “gold standard” in medical research – to look at how well aspirin fared against a dummy drug in people aged over 70 with bowel cancer.


• Active ingredient is acetylsalicylic acid

• Used for many years as a painkiller

• Has an anti-inflammatory action

• Low-dose (75 mg) is already recommended for people with known cardiovascular disease to prevent stroke and heart attack

• Benefits for healthy people are still unclear

• Can cause fatal internal bleeding, although this is relatively rare


Sleeping pills appear to be linked with a higher death risk, US doctors warn.

The US study, published in BMJ Open, compared more than 10,000 patients on tablets like temazepam with 23,000 similar patients not taking these drugs.

Death risk among users was about four times higher, although the absolute risk was still relatively low.

Experts say while the findings highlight a potential risk, proof of harm is still lacking.

Researchers say patients should not be alarmed nor stop their medication, but if they are concerned they should discuss this with their doctor or pharmacist.

The latest study looked at a wide range of sleeping pills, such as benzodiazepines (temazepam and diazepam), non-benzodiazepines (zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon), barbiturates and sedative antihistamines.

Sleeping pills appear to be linked with a higher death risk, US doctors warn

Sleeping pills appear to be linked with a higher death risk, US doctors warn

The investigators, from the Jackson Hole Centre for Preventive Medicine in Wyoming and the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Centre in California, found that people prescribed these pills were 4.6 times more likely to die during a 2.5-year period compared to those not on the drugs.

Overall, one in every 16 patients in the sleeping pill group died (638 out of 10,531 in total) compared to one in every 80 of the non-users (295 deaths out of 23,674 patients).

This increased risk was irrespective of other underlying health conditions, such as heart and lung diseases, and other factors like smoking and alcohol use, which the researchers say they did their best to rule out.

The researchers say it is not yet clear why people taking sleeping tablets may be at greater risk.

The drugs are sedating and this may make users more prone to falls and other accidents. The tablets can also alter a person’s breathing pattern as they sleep and they have been linked to increased suicide risk.

In this latest study, those taking the highest doses of sleeping tablets also appeared to be at greater risk of developing cancer.

The researchers say: “The meagre benefits of hypnotics, as critically reviewed by groups without financial interest, would not justify substantial risks.”

They say even short-term use may not be justifiable.