An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but new research indicates that while it doesn’t rhyme quite as well, an aspirin a day may ward off cancer.

British scientists who analyzed data from more than 50 studies discovered people who took aspirin on a daily basis for three years were less likely to develop cancer, and those who took it for five years or more were 15 percent less likely to die of cancer.

Among patients who developed the disease, those who took daily aspirin were 36 percent less likely to have metastatic cancer, or cancer that had already spread throughout their body. This applied especially to patients diagnosed with localized colon cancer — taking daily aspirin halved the chances of their disease spreading.

Asad Umar, chief of the Gastrointestinal and Other Cancers Research Group of the National Cancer Institute, said the benefits could be linked to aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties, while other doctors think aspirin may interfere with the body’s processes allowing the growth of tumors.

A daily aspirin is often recommended for men between 45 and 79 to prevent heart disease, and to women aged 55 to 79 to lessen their chances of having a stroke. But should you start taking aspirin to stave off cancer?

“Aspirin also probably works in ways that we don’t quite understand,” said Jay Whelan, who heads the Department of Cellular and Molecular Nutrition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “We don’t know the mechanism, and it is very difficult to make a blanket public health statement without knowing [that].”

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