March 23, 2012

When you should take an aspirin a
day (Hint: It’s not for your heart)

You may have heard about a study that came out not too long ago touting aspirin as a cancer preventive. The report came out in The Lancet and said that aspirin cuts hereditary cancer risk in half. That’s pretty impressive. But you need to know the other side of the story.

First, the report was on Lynch syndrome, a genetic problem in which your DNA can’t properly repair itself. Most experts believe that 10% of colon and uterine cancers are the result of genetic factors like this. The study followed almost 1,000 people with Lynch syndrome over 10 years.

While 15% of the people using aspirin regularly reported developing cancer, 30% of non-users got cancer. Interestingly, both groups got the same number of colon polyps, considered precursors of colon cancer. So, the researchers believed that aspirin could be destroying precancerous cells before they become malignant.

It’s true that there might be a place for aspirin in cancer prevention for a hereditary disorder. But it won’t be without risk of stomach bleeding and gastritis. I would turn to diet first. Here’s why:

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Loma Linda researchers conducted a colon polyp study on 2,818 participants of the Adventist Health Study. This study followed patients for a whopping 26 years! They found that consuming legumes three or more times per week netted a 33% reduction in getting polyps. Brown rice just once per week lowered risk by 40%. And those who consumed cooked green veggies daily had a 24% lower risk, as compared to those eating them less than five times weekly.

The lead researcher was Yessenia M. Tantamango. She said all these, and including dried fruits, have large amounts of fiber, which will dilute potential carcinogens. Cruciferous veggies, famed for cancer prevention, also contain detoxifying compounds.

There is colon cancer in my family. But I’m not taking aspirin. I’d rather more than halve my risk with a combination of foods mentioned above (except I don’t cook the bulk of my veggies, so I think they have greater risk reduction).

I know you may not be able to increase these protective foods for one reason or another. If there is a genetic history, then you might consider an aspirin a day. Please consult your integrative physician before starting on aspirin.

Ref: The Lancet 11-1-11; Nutrition and Cancer. May, 2011.

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