Washington: Women who take the common painkiller aspirin every other day for a long duration may lower their risk of developing colon cancer by as much as 20 percent, a new study has claimed.
According to the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, women who took low dose aspirin on alternate days for 18 years saw a 20 percent drop in their risk of developing colon cancer.
Researchers looked at 39,876 women 45 and older who were enrolled in the Women's Health Study. Participants all took a low dose pill of aspirin (100 mg) or a placebo every other day from when they were enrolled in the study until 2004.
After the study, researchers followed 33,682 participants through March 2012. They were not given additional aspirin or placebos in this time frame. They found that women who continued to take aspirin on their own after the end of the trial had the lowest risk for colon cancer. There were no other differences between the placebo and aspirin groups for other cancer types, overall cancer risk or death.
However, women who took aspirin were more likely to have gastrointestinal bleeding (8.3 percent versus 7.3 percent) and peptic ulcers (7.3 percent versus 6.2 percent).
The researchers, led by the department of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, pointed out that not all women enrolled in the Women's Health Study were followed up with, and that cases of gastrointestinal bleeding were only self-reported. However, they felt confident in saying that long-term use of aspirin every other day may reduce the risk for colorectal cancer in healthy women.
Dr Andrew Chan, program director of the gastroenterology training program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told that this study was especially important because it was a randomized clinical trial with very many subjects.
"It shows even more substantial evidence that there is a chemo preventative benefit for colon cancer," he said.

Chan, who was not involved in the study, emphasized however that observed side effects of gastrointestinal bleeding and peptic ulcers are widely known, and this may play a role in a patient's decision on whether or not they want to take the medication.