British scientists have shown fewer cancer deaths in pooled studies of heart patients taking aspirin. Participants took aspirin for an average of four years or more, and when cancer studies followed, deaths from cancers such as lung and prostate were found to be 20% lower in the aspirin-takers, and colon cancer deaths were down over a third.
There are three important points:
The study was focused on cardio-vascular effects in people who had pre-existing risks or disease. So is this study of the cancer-reducing aspirin benefits unique? It is tempting to speculate that all of us could benefit, but in light of some large studies of low-risk, regular groups that failed to show protection against breast cancer in women, we have to be careful not to over-extrapolate.
Secondly, there are potential risks, including bleeding in the brain, stomach or intestines in patients who take aspirin everyday.
Finally, aspirin is not the only anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. There are many natural alternatives for these benefits, such as exercise, and fruits and vegetables. Since inflammation and oxidation are among the root causes of cancer, why not stay active and eat well as a first resort in preventing cancer? Without a doubt, a healthy lifestyle will reduce cancer risk, at least for many of our most feared types.
Before taking an aspirin-a-day, check with your doctor, okay?