Harvard Women's Health Watch

Can aspirin help fight cancer?

Doctors have discovered a new use for this centuries-old pain reliever.

As far back as the time of the ancient Greeks, physicians understood that the bark of the willow tree had the ability to relieve pain, bring down fever, and reduce inflammation. In the late 1800s, German chemist Felix Hoffmann of the Bayer pharmaceutical company figured out how to chemically synthesize the active ingredient in willow bark—salicylic acid—into a potent pain reliever. By the early 20th century, Bayer aspirin had become a staple in nearly every home medicine chest.

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