Health: ‘Tackle cause of weight before seeking cancer risk shortcut’

Picture by Stephen Kelly/ PA Wire.
Picture by Stephen Kelly/ PA Wire.
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Groundbreaking research suggesting regularly taking aspirin could reduce the cancer risk of people who are overweight sends out a mixed message.

The research, conducted by the University of Leeds and Newcastle University, found that being overweight more than doubled the risk of bowel cancer in people with Lynch Syndrome. The disorder affects genes responsible for detecting and repairing damaged DNA, so around half of people with the condition develop cancer.

But a 10-year study found the extra cancer risk associated with being overweight to be counteracted by a daily 600mg dose of aspirin. It is thought this could have major implications for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, these are pretty amazing early results, but surely suggesting that those struggling with their weight should take aspirin to reduce their risk of developing cancer is missing the point.

Professor Sir John Burn, who led the research, did make it quite clear that these results should not a cause rush for the pharmacy. The study is yet to be backed up by further research, while Prof Burn has reminded people to bear in mind the risks of regular aspirin use, such as stomach complaints and ulcers.

Rather than reaching for the medicine cabinet, people who are overweight should be doing their utmost to get healthy.

Taking aspiring may one day become a proven way of lowering cancer risk, but being overweight has far more health implications such as increasing the risk of type two diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Living a healthy lifestyle and tackling the root of the problem should be the number one priority – not taking shortcuts to plaster over the cracks.


Nearly 1,000 patients with Lynch Syndrome took part in the study led by the University of Leeds and Newcastle University.

The study saw patients take two aspirins or a placebo every day for two years before being followed up years later by researchers.

It involved scientists and clinicians from more than 43 centres in 16 countries and followed some patients for over 10 years.

Researchers suggested that the results back up evidence that an “increased inflammatory process” increases the risk of cancer. Obesity increases the inflammatory response but aspirin suppresses it.