Taking daily low-dose aspirin could provide a significant protective effect against many different types of cancer, a study published in The Lancet suggests.

The research, which looked data from more than 25,000 patients, found that a daily dose of aspirin 75mg cut deaths due to several common cancers, and that its benefit increased with duration of treatment.

The combined results showed that taking aspirin cut the risk of dying from cancer by 21%, and that the overall rate of death for all cancers was slashed by 34% after five years’ continuous use. The effect was particularly strong for gastrointestinal cancers, deaths from which plummeted 54%.

The findings will add weight to the argument that people should be taking daily aspirin to protect against a range of disease. Its cardioprotective effect is already well documented, and in October a Lancet-published trial showed the drug’s cut the risk of death from bowel cancer by a third. On the downside, however, there is a small increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding with long-term use of aspirin, which has put people off taking the drug regularly.

However, Oxford University researcher Peter Rothwell noted that while “previous guidelines have rightly cautioned that in healthy middle-aged people the small risk of bleeding on aspirin partly offsets the benefit from prevention of strokes and heart attacks, the reductions in deaths due to several common cancers will now alter this balance for many people”.

The researchers note that the “findings have implications for guidelines on use of aspirin and for understanding of carcinogenesis and its susceptibility to drug intervention”, and have called for additional research to determine the effects of aspirin in cancer.