I saw a video that said that taking an aspirin a day could significantly reduce the risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers. Is this true? Should everyone start taking aspirin daily?"
Studies have shown that taking aspirin over a number of years may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancers, particularly bowel cancer. Aspirin is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine often used for pain relief. Many people take low-dose aspirin every day for different reasons. For those who have had a stroke, heart attack, coronary artery stint or coronary bypass, there is strong evidence that taking aspirin helps prevent another such incident. Aspirin has sometimes been used to prevent heart disease in the first place. However, new guidelines published in 2019 by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology indicate that few people benefit from using aspirin in this way and in fact there may be some harm for people with no known heart disease. Anyone considering the regular use of aspirin should see their doctor to discuss the benefits and risks based on their individual circumstances (e.g. family history, conditions such as Lynch syndrome).
Aspirin use can have side effects (mainly bleeding from the stomach or intestines), so self-medication without medical advice is not recommended. While side effects are uncommon and usually manageable, in rare cases they can be serious and potentially fatal. It is important to note that we can all reduce our risk of bowel and other cancers by not smoking, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol intake and avoiding excess weight gain. Early detection is also important and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program supports the early detection of bowel cancer through a simple test that can be done at home. Information about the program is available at www.cancerscreening.gov.au.