Aspirin: What are the risks and benefits?

aspirin Aspirin: A wonder drug?

Related Stories

Taking a small dose of aspirin every day has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. So what is aspirin and what are the risks and benefits?

What is aspirin?

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a drug that has been used for many years as a painkiller. It has an anti-inflammatory action, and is used to relieve headache, menstrual pain and muscle aches. It costs 1p a tablet.

How does it work?

It works by helping to prevent blood clots forming in the blood vessels, by stopping cells in the blood known as platelets from sticking together and clogging an artery.

How can it prevent disease?

Aspirin lowers the risk of a blood clot forming in the arteries of the heart or brain, thereby reducing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

What is the evidence that it can prevent cancer?

There is considerable evidence suggesting aspirin can reduce the risk of getting or dying from many different types of cancer. Early studies suggested the benefits come from taking high doses of aspirin.

The latest work suggests even small doses - 75mg - can reduce the risk of cancer when taken for at least five years.

Who should take aspirin?

Anyone considering taking aspirin is advised to talk to their doctor first as aspirin can affect health in other ways, such as increasing the chances of bleeding from the gut.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Health stories


Features & Analysis

  • Prostitute in red light district in Seoul, South KoreaSex for soldiers

    How Korea helped prostitutes work near US military bases

  • LuckyDumped

    The rubbish collector left on the scrap heap as his city cleans up

  • A woman gets a Thanksgiving meal at a church in FergusonFamily fears

    Three generations in Ferguson share Thanksgiving reflections

  • Canada joins TwitterTweet North

    Canada's self-deprecating social media feed

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • IslandsUnmapped places

    Will the age-old quest to capture uncharted land and space ever end?


  • All-inclusive holidaysThe Travel Show Watch

    With all-inclusive holidays seeing a resurgence are local trades missing out to big resorts?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.