People have been using aspirin to cure aches and pains for years, as well as to help thin blood to maintain blood pressure and to help prevent cardiac disease. Now, the largest clinical trial of the medicine will take place in the United Kingdom as researchers try to determine whether aspirin can prevent certain cancers from returning to patients.

The trial will follow about 11,000 people who have suffered various cancers including bowel, prostate, stomach, esophageal and breast cancer.

In recent years, a fierce and widespread medical debate has taken place over whether aspirin has certain anti-cancer qualities. This study hopes to provide some answers.

Scientists acknowledge that if aspirin is proven to work in preventing the recurrence of certain cancers, it would be “game-changing” as it would provide an effective and inexpensive way to help patients.

The charity, Cancer Research U.K., and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded the study in which patients will take one aspirin tablet daily for five years.

As part of the study, researchers will compare and evaluate groups of patients – with each group taking a different dosage of the medicine or a placebo. The scientists will evaluate the rate of cancer recurrence in each group.

A member of the Cancer Research U.K.’s team, Dr. Fiona Reddington, stated that, “The trial is especially exciting as cancers that recur are often harder to treat so finding a cheap and effective way to prevent this is potentially game-changing for patients.”

The clinical trial will involve patients who are currently having or have had treatment for earlier diagnoses of cancer. The trial will evaluate the patients at 100 different centers in the United Kingdom and will take place over a span of 12 years.

And, even though aspirin is extremely common and readily available, scientists do warn that the medicine should not be taken without speaking with a doctor first. While it has many benefits, taking aspirin on a daily basis has some risks. The drug can cause certain side effects such as ulcers and internal bleeding, particularly from the stomach or brain.

When describing the goal of the research, the lead investigator on the trial, Professor Ruth Langley, said that, “There’s been some interesting research suggesting that aspirin could delay or stop early stage cancers coming back but there’s been no randomized trial to give clear proof. The trial aims to answer this question once and for all. If we find that aspirin does stop these cancers returning, it could change future treatment – providing a cheap and simple way to help stop cancer coming back and helping more people survive.”

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