The humble painkiller aspirin cuts the risk of mouth, throat and oesophagal cancers by two-thirds, Italian researchers have revealed. The century-old “wonder drug” is already known to protect against heart attacks, stroke and arthritis.

Cristina Bosetti and colleagues at the Institute of Pharmacological Research in Milan found that people taking aspirin at least once a week for five years or more had their risk of the cancers slashed.

“This is the first quantitative evidence that taking aspirin may reduce the risk of developing cancers in what we call the aerodigestive tract, connecting the mouth and the stomach,” she said.