Healthy people should be encouraged to take a daily dose of aspirin to ward off cancer, the leader of a study highlighting the drug's benefits has said.
The research shows long-term use of aspirin significantly reduces the risk of developing major cancers, mostly affecting the digestive tract.
If everyone in the UK aged 50 to 64 took aspirin for 10 years, an estimated 130,357 cancer deaths could be avoided over two decades and 9,473 fatal heart attacks would be prevented, the study found.
On the other side of the equation, population-wide aspirin use would be expected to cause just under 18,000 deaths over 20 years, mainly due to internal bleeding and strokes.
However, the scientists believe the scales are tipped firmly towards aspirin.
Prof Jack Cuzick, head of Queen Mary, University of London's Centre for Cancer Prevention, stopped short of urging GPs to prescribe aspirin, but said: "I think they should recommend it."
The research pulled together all the available data from reviews and clinical trials looking at both the good and bad effects of preventative use of aspirin.
Prof Cuzick's team found taking the drug for 10 years could cut bowel cancer incidence by 35pc and deaths by 40pc.
Similarly, rates of stomach and oesophageal cancer were reduced by 30pc and deaths from these diseases by 35pc and 50pc respectively.