Should we all take an aspirin



00:05 GMT, 25 March 2012

There are numerous health benefits but it's not without risk

There are numerous health benefits but it's not without risk

The benefits of aspirin are making headlines again, this time with research showing it prevents cancer. So we should all be stocking up, surely Not so. There are numerous health benefits from taking this drug but it is not without risks. Here’s what you need to know.

Should we all be taking it

No. However, over the age of 50 we know the risk of cancer increases, so it is possible that if you started taking it from that age onwards you might reduce the risk of certain cancers. If you have a strong family history of heart disease or cancers and are not on any medications that irritate the stomach (aspirin can further damage the stomach lining), it is worth considering. But always ask your GP first.

Will it really stop us from getting cancer

Although the studies show it reduces the risk of cancers, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get the disease. So if you have a family history of colorectal or prostate cancer, you still need to be aware of the warning signs.

Who should take it

Anyone for whom it has been prescribed – those at risk of stroke or heart attack, or any cardiovascular reason.

And who shouldn’t take it

If you are taking any medication that irritates the stomach, you must seek medical advice. This includes steroids, antidepressants or regular ibuprofen for conditions such as arthritis. Ibuprofen once a week for a headache shouldn’t cause any problems but it might if taken more frequently. Haemophiliacs and those with stomach ulcers cannot take it.

What dose should we take

One 75mg tablet a day on a full stomach. Take with a glass of milk – not, as many think, to reduce irritation to the stomach, but because the calcium helps with absorption.

What are the side effects

Some degree of stomach irritation is inevitable. Aspirin stimulates prostaglandins in the stomach but this won’t always cause a problem. Some will develop ulcers, especially those who drink or smoke heavily.