06/08/2012 01:54 pm ET Updated Aug 08, 2012

Aspirin May Lower Risk Of Dying From Cancer, Study Suggests

By Katherine Harmon
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

Aspirin has long been prescribed to help prevent heart attacks. For those who have had a heart attack or stroke or are at high risk, a low daily dose can lower the odds their blood will form dangerous, deadly clots. But could it also help to prevent other diseases?

New research suggests that daily aspirin could indeed lower the risk of dying from non-vascular related diseases. And that includes cancer. The findings are in The American Journal of Medicine. [Edward Mills et al., "Low-dose Aspirin and Cancer Mortality: A meta-analysis of randomized trials"]

The analysis looked at about two-dozen studies. Patients that received aspirin had a slightly lower incidence of dying from a non-cardiovascular disease.

In studies examining cancer deaths, the difference was even greater. A 2011 study, for example, had shown that aspirin reduced the risk of colorectal cancers for those who were genetically predisposed to get it. The researchers suggest that the impact on cancer is likely due to aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties.

Of course daily aspirin is not without its drawbacks. It can increase the risk of dangerous internal bleeding. So patients should talk with their doctors about the pros and cons before taking the pill.