A low daily dose of aspirin could ward off bowel cancer, experts said today.
Even people not at high risk of the disease could benefit from the painkiller, with the positive effects mounting up over time.
Researchers writing in the journal Gut studied almost 2,800 people with bowel cancer and nearly 3,000 healthy people.
Their intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, was taken into account.
Overall, 16pc of people with bowel cancer were taking a low dose of aspirin compared with 18pc of those in the healthy group.
The results showed that those who took a daily low dose of 75mg of aspirin had a lower chance of developing the disease.
Taking 75mg of aspirin every day for between one and three years led to a 19pc reduction in risk.
For people taking the drug daily for three to five years, there was a 24pc reduced risk, rising to 31pc for those taking the drug for five to 10 years.
Doubling the dose did not lead to any extra benefit, suggesting "the lowest dose of aspirin is effective".
However, no type of NSAID increased survival in patients who already had bowel cancer or prevented death from any other cause.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "These findings are encouraging.
"In the case of daily aspirin, we recommend that you consult your GP before undertaking any course of treatment."