LONDON - A new analysis suggests that taking a low dose of aspirin may modestly reduce the risk of developing colon cancer or dying of the disease.
But experts say aspirin's side effects of bleeding and stomach problems are too worrisome for most people to take the drug for that reason alone. A U.S. health task force specifically recommends against it for those at average risk.
Previous studies have found a daily dose of at least 500 milligrams of aspirin could prevent colon cancer, but the adverse effects of such a high dose outweighed the benefits. Now, researchers say a low dose, equivalent to a baby or regular aspirin, also appears to work. But side effects are still a concern.
The European researchers pooled the 20-year results of four trials with more than 14,000 people. Those studies were designed to study aspirin's use in preventing strokes, not colon cancer.
The researchers tracked who developed the disease through cancer registries and death certificates in Britain and Sweden, where the studies were done.
They found those who took a low dose daily for about six years reduced their colon cancer risk by 24 percent and their risk of dying from the disease by 35 percent. That was compared to those who took a dummy pill or nothing.
There seemed to be no advantage to taking more than a baby-sized dose.
Some researchers said the drug would benefit certain people, though no one should start taking aspirin daily without consulting their doctor.
If taken in high doses over a long period, aspirin can irritate the stomach, intestines and bowel, causing lesions and major bleeding.