Health Watch -- Aspirin

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You may have a wonder drug in your medicine cabinet.

The old joke about a doctor saying take two aspirin and call again in the morning may have a grain of truth to it. We may think of aspirin as something for minor pain and fever, but research keeps showing new, powerful properties. Doctors already recommend aspirin therapy to help prevent heart attacks.

Now studies show that aspirin could help prevent cancer.

Research is showing that taking aspirin regularly could help prevent breast, throat, lung and colorectal cancer. It appears to do this by stopping cancer cells from reproducing so quickly and by encouraging cancer cells to self-destruct.

Dr. Carlos Becerra, a cancer specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says aspirin therapy is particularly promising for preventing colorectal cancer. It seems to prevent rapidly growing abnormal tissue in the colon, both before and after cancer is diagnosed. Doctors plan more research on how effective aspirin therapy is and which people would benefit the most.

But that doesn't mean you should just start taking aspirin every day. Research must be done to determine how much aspirin is needed to achieve benefits, and to find out if these benefits outweigh any potential risks. Aspirin can cause side effects, such as internal bleeding, and it can interact dangerously with other drugs.

Talk to your doctor before you start an aspirin regimen, and don't give aspirin daily to children.