It's the everyday pill that's in everyone's medicine chest -- and millions of people pop 'em twice a day or more in a misguided and dangerous attempt to beat life's aches and pains.
It's acetaminophen, aka Tylenol, and the long list of risks that come from regular use just got even longer: A new study finds that this common painkiller can actually double the odds of blood cancers such as lymphoma.
I don't know about you, but I'll take the headache.
Researchers tracked some 65,000 older Washington state men and women between the ages of 50 and 76 for an average of six years and asked them about their painkiller use during the study and over the previous decade.
As the study unfolded, 577 of the volunteers -- less than one percent -- came down with hematologic cancers such as lymphoma and myelodysplastic syndrome.
And after adjusting for age, family history and more, the researchers say those who took the painkillers regularly had double the cancer risk.
On a practical level, the researchers say a typical 50-year-old has about a 1 percent chance of getting a blood cancer over 10 years -- but if that same 50-year-old pops four Tylenols a week, the risk shoots up to 2 percent.
That might not sound very high, but those aren't exactly "lightning strike" odds, either -- those are odds that could affect you or someone in your life if you're twisting open the acetaminophen jar too often.
And if that's you, you're hardly alone: Some studies have found that 50 million Americans take a product that contains acetaminophen every week -- and many of these people may not even realize when they're taking it or even how much they've taken.
That's because acetaminophen isn't just in painkillers anymore -- it's in over-the-counter cold relief medications, allergy and sinus drugs and even some versions of Alka-Seltzer.
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz -- oh what a risk it is!
In other words, it's easy to load up on acetaminophen if you're not careful -- and blood cancer isn't the only risk you'll face if you do.
Acetaminophen overuse is now the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Overdose sends 56,000 Americans to emergency rooms every year, and leads to hundreds of deaths.
Don't take risks -- take action instead.
All pain, from headache to muscle problems, has a cause -- and the only real way to beat it is to find that cause and fix it.