Dutch researchers say risk can be reduced up to 30 percent -- here's how.
We all grew up hearing, "An aspirin a day will keep the doctor away."
But were we ever told what ailments exactly we were preventing?
Over time, we learned that taking a baby aspirin a day was good for warding off a heart attack, especially if someone already had heart issues. The thinning of the blood was considered the key for preventing blockage that can lead to a heart attack.
Now, we're learning from European researchers that baby aspirin can also prevent us from contracting colon cancer.
The Danish Cancer Society Research Center released the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which says there's a lower risk if you take one or maybe two baby aspirin a day over a five-year period. That study builds on previous research that showed not only baby aspirin but anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen could prevent colon cancer as well.
What was missing from that previous research, however, was how long you had to take the baby aspirin.
There have long been fears about the impact of taking ibuprofen long term and its impact on the liver. People have been warned not to take a regular aspirin, because it can cause bleeding in the colon, and taking a baby aspirin instead minimized that risk.
The study says the risk of colon cancer appears to be reduced by 27 percent by using baby aspirin and by 30 percent using ibuprofen.
The authors of the study say in their writing that it looked at patients with first-time colorectal cancer in northern Denmark between 1994 and 2011.
The study consisted of more than 10,000 patients and 102,000 control participants.
"Long-term, continuous use of low-dose aspirin and long-term use of non-aspirin (anti-inflammatories) were associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk," the authors say. The key, they say, is taking the baby aspirin continuously.
The study does have some limitations. For starters, it is based it on people who had prescriptions and not those who might have taken something over the counter.
Data were unavailable on over-the-counter purchases of high-dose aspirin and low-dose ibuprofen dosing schedules. The study also didn't look at a patient's risk such as family genetics, diet, obesity, and other factors.
The National Cancer Institute says 90 percent of colon cancer patients are those 50 and older.
Doctors warn that no one should start taking aspirin or anti-inflammatories without consulting their physician, even though many older Americans are already taking baby aspirin to prevent a heart attack.
Concerned about colon cancer? Other studies have shown that it's important to stop eating red meat can to avoid the cancer. And don't kid yourself - only one drink per day can open the door to alcohol-caused cancer, including colon.