Aspirin can reduce the chances of dying from bowel cancer by almost a third, research has shown.
Patients who took a daily dose of the pain killer for at least nine months after being diagnosed cut the likelihood of the disease killing them by 30%.
Taking aspirin for any length of time after diagnosis reduced the odds of dying from cancer by 23% compared with not taking aspirin at all.
The study looked at 4,500 bowel cancer patients in the Netherlands diagnosed between 1998 and 2007.
A quarter were not aspirin users, another quarter only took aspirin after diagnosis, while the remaining group took it both before and after developing cancer.
Lead researcher Dr Gerrit-Jan Liefers, from Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said: "Our findings could have profound clinical implications. In this study, we showed the therapeutic effect of a widely-available, familiar drug that costs mere pennies per day.
"It's possible that some older people may have other health problems which mean that they are not well enough to have chemotherapy. Bowel cancer is more common in older people so these results could be a big advance in treatment of the disease, particularly in this group. But we need further research to confirm this."
His team is now planning a randomised controlled trial due to start later this year which will target the over-70s population.
The results are published today in the British Journal of Cancer, owned by Cancer Research UK.
Sarah Lyness, executive director policy and information at the charity, said: "This latest study adds to the growing evidence about the benefits of aspirin. The latest evidence suggests that the drug not only reduces the risk of dying from cancer, but can also help prevent the disease from developing in the first place.
"But we are not yet at the point where we would recommend people start taking aspirin to reduce their chances of developing cancer. There are still questions we need to answer about the side effects, such as internal bleeding, who might benefit most from taking aspirin, who might be harmed, what dose and how long people some people might want to take it for.
"Anyone thinking of taking aspirin to cut their risk of cancer should talk to their GP first. People with cancer should be aware that aspirin can increase the chances of complications before surgery or other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and should discuss this with their specialist.