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Aspirin to Reduce Cancer Risk?

A review of eight separate research trials shows that taking one baby aspirin every day for an average of four years reduces your chances of dying from many cancers including those of prostate by 20 percent, colon by 35 percent, esophagus by 60 percent and lung by 30 percent (Lancet, published online December 7, 2010). A baby aspirin is a quarter of an adult aspirin, and higher doses did not offer greater protection.

The leading theory for aspirin's protection against cancer is based on the ability of aspirin to block the synthesis of prostaglandins that promote inflammation. Your immunity is supposed to be good for you because it kills germs. Inflammation means your immunity is active all the time, attacking your own body to increase risk for heart attacks, cancers, arthritis, asthma, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes and so forth.

However, aspirin has many serious side effects. It should not be taken by people who are at increased risk of bleeding or falling. Older people or people who participate in sports such as cycling can bleed into their brains. People with stomach ulcers can bleed profusely into their stomachs. Because of the potential for death from bleeding, most authorities recommend against taking aspirin to reduce cancer risk. They recommend daily aspirin only to patients at high risk for heart attacks.

At present, we try to prevent cancer by avoiding: *smoking, *air pollution and other known carcinogens, *red meat, *fried or burnt foods, and *more than two drinks in a day. Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables also help to prevent cancer.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Should all prostate cancers be treated?

Twenty to forty percent of prostate cancers are of such low risk of spreading through the body that they should probably be treated with "active surveillance". In one study, 65-year-old men with low-risk prostate cancer who were given this watchful waiting had 11 years of "quality of life"; many months more than those treated with internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy, radioactive seeds), intensity-modulated radiation therapy (beam radiation), or surgical radical prostatectomy (Journal of the American Medical Association. December 1, 2010).

Prostate cancers that are small, localized to one area, and do not look very malignant under the microscope are called low risk. In the study, these men were treated with "active surveillance": frequent PSA tests, physical exams, and periodic biopsies to monitor the cancer's growth.

From previous studies, the authors knew that those who chose immediate treatment reduced their risk of dying from prostate cancer by 17 percent. However, treatment for prostate cancer can cause impotence, incontinence and infections, so the authors devised a "quality of life" scale comparing lengthening of life with adverse side effects. The low risk group who chose watchful waiting had the most quality years.

This recommendation applies only to men with prostate cancer who can live with the fear of not being treated. Watchful waiting is only for men who put a premium on quality of life over the unproved theory that lack of treatment shortens lives. The authors emphasize that "for some men and their families, the concept that a cancer of any sort is not treated when found early is unthinkable."

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does air pollution increase risk of heart attacks?

Yes; a recent review from the American Heart Association concludes that: *Long-term exposure to air pollution over a few hours to weeks can cause heart attacks and death in susceptible people; *Exposure over a few years increases risk for death from heart attacks; and *Reductions in exposure over a few years is associated with decreased risk for heart attacks (Circulation, December 2010).

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Recipe of the Week:

Clementines are back in the supermarkets! First, read:

About Clementines

Then try one of these delicious recipes:

Clementine-Quinoa Salad
Spinach Salad with Clementines
Clementine-Wild Rice Salad

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 21st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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