Life Extension Magazine May 2011
The Everyday Drug That Prevents Cancer Death
By Edward Korlov
By Edward Korlov
Three Million Needless Cancer Deaths… Courtesy of the FDA
Misguided government actions result in countless numbers of human beings dying needlessly.
The FDA exacerbates this tragedy by suppressing the truth about a low-cost drug that Life Extension® has recommended people take since 1983.
The report you are about to read documents how daily use of low-dose aspirin could have saved 112,000 Americans from agonizing cancer death each year. Multiply that carnage by the 27 years Life Extension has battled the FDA on the aspirin issue and the total comes to three million unnecessary cancer deaths!
Since it is illegal to promote aspirin as a cancer preventive, and the FDA dilutes what can be said about its heart attack-reducing effects, most Americans will not find out what Life Extension members did in the early 1980s, which is to take 81 milligrams of aspirin every day.
Imagine you could readily obtain a safe, low-cost drug that could reduce your overall risk of cancer death by 20%. Or slash your risk of colorectal cancer—the third most common cause of cancer mortality in the US for both men and women1—by up to 40%.
No pharmaceutical giant could hold a patent on it, and you wouldn’t need a prescription to get it. All you’d have to do to benefit from its anti-cancer power is reach into your own medicine cabinet.
In an important scientific development, this unlikely scenario is now a medical reality.
After analyzing data drawn from over 25,000 human subjects, a team of researchers at Oxford University has conclusively demonstrated that long-term, low-dose aspirin therapy (75 mg per day) effectively combats multiple forms of cancer—and prevents cancer death.2
In this article, the results of their work are detailed. You will discover the precise mechanisms of action by which aspirin impedes cancer cell development. You will find out how pharmaceutical giants are acting on these findings to reap extraordinary profits at the expense of the public health. You will also learn what you can do to optimize aspirin’s chemopreventive capabilities, naturally minimize its potential side effects—and possibly save your life.
Cardiovascular and Anti-Cancer Research: A Lifesaving Link
At the forefront of the growing field of research into aspirin’s role as a cancer fighter is Professor Peter Rothwell of Oxford University. Having specialized primarily in cardiovascular medical research, he and his colleagues had at their disposal a trove of information compiled from eight massive studies examining the effect of aspirin therapy on cardiovascular health.
Rothwell and his team had previously observed that aspirin treatment for longer than five years appeared to significantly reduce risk for colorectal cancer, one of the most common malignancies in older adults.3,4 On the basis of this insight, they decided to re-examine these eight studies to find out if daily aspirin intake afforded an even greater overall anti-cancer benefit. Their results were published online in December 2010.
Cumulatively, these studies provided solid and detailed medical data on nearly 26,000 patients who either took aspirin daily, or took no aspirin, for 5 years or longer. Thanks to meticulous recordkeeping, they were able to determine both the timing and the cause of death for each and every subject under study—including those who had died of cancer. Three of these studies also included follow-up information on subjects over the course of 20 years.2
Among the most compelling of their findings:
The data correlating aspirin therapy with colon cancer prevention proved particularly compelling. Rothwell’s team saw a 24% reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer over a 20-year period in patients who took aspirin daily4 and a 35% reduction in the risk of dying from colon cancer. The most potent preventive benefit was observed in cancers of the upper colon (the ascending and transverse colon).4
Rothwell’s team made two more important discoveries.
First, while a minimum 5 years of low-dose aspirin intake is required to enjoy its chemopreventive effect, it may take 10 years or longer after the start of therapy to realize aspirin’s full beneficial potential. In other words, the sooner you start on a daily low-dose aspirin regimen, the better your chances of maximizing aspirin’s cancer-fighting effect.3
Second, their findings indicate that you need to take aspirin every day in order to get the cancer-preventive benefit.2 In one particularly noteworthy controlled trial, a large cohort of more than 19,000 women taking low-dose aspirin (100 mg) only every other day exhibited no protective effect.5
The results of Rothwell’s analysis corroborated existing evidence indicating that regular aspirin intake might protect against a constellation of common cancers. Large epidemiological analyses have shown that people who take daily doses of aspirin enjoy a preventive effect against most types of colorectal cancer,6,7 as much as 40% by consensus estimates.8,9 In people with known adenomatous polyps—small, fleshy, protuberant precursors to malignancy—short-term aspirin therapy reduces the risk of recurrence.3
Separate observational studies have suggested a preventive effect for cancers of the esophagus, stomach, lung, breast, and ovaries.8,10,11 A 2010 study revealed that men taking regular aspirin supplements attained a 10% reduction in prostate cancer risk compared to men who took no aspirin.12 Another study showed a risk reduction of 24% in long-term users (greater than 5 years), and 29% in daily aspirin users.13
Although those studies were encouraging, they were small, and some of their results were conflicting. Furthermore, observational studies can sometimes be inconclusive at determining risks and benefits of medications, because they do not (by definition) include any controls such as a placebo group. So Rothwell and his group made certain that their study design was robust enough to deliver definitive answers to these lingering questions.
“Aspirin-Like” Drugs: Barefaced Big Pharma Profiteering?
In response to the release of Professor Rothwell’s recent landmark findings, the highly regarded British newspaper The Guardian reported, “If Big Pharma had unveiled a brand new drug that would stop 20% of cancer deaths, the hype would be enormous and the pressure to buy it, at an inevitably high cost, huge.”32
A prescient observation: it turns out efforts are already underway to exploit Rothwell’s findings in order to reap profits while downplaying aspirin’s anti-cancer efficacy.
Studies of pharmacologically similar compounds, like selective COX-2 inhibitors (the coxibs), are now appearing that demonstrate anti-cancer effects almost identical to those of aspirin itself.23,33-35 The problem? Coxibs are not only much more expensive than aspirin; they’re relatively dangerous. In fact, the coxibs have been linked with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events such as heart failure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and stroke.36-38 Why investigate their anti-cancer efficacy if they’re no better, cheaper, or safer than aspirin? In all likelihood because many coxibs remain under patent protection, and thus represent a potential windfall for the pharmaceutical industry.
Newer drugs “based” on aspirin, called nitric oxide-donating aspirins, are also in development, even though they have yet to prove themselves in any way superior to aspirin.39-41 This is yet another instance of a widespread drug company practice: synthetically alter a safe, inexpensive and readily available compound by attaching a molecule to it, thereby creating an entirely “new” patentable drug, one that holds enormous profit-making potential at the expense of the public health.
So if you find yourself reading headlines in the near future announcing coxibs’ newfound power to fight cancer, or celebrating a “new kind of cancer-fighting aspirin,” you may safely ignore them. Stick with regular aspirin instead.
In a meta-analysis involving over 25,000 human subjects, a team of Oxford researchers has conclusively demonstrated that daily low-dose aspirin therapy slashes overall risk of cancer death by 20% and colorectal cancer death risk by nearly 40%. This cancer-preventive benefit increases with age, proving especially effective in populations 55 and older. It also increases over time, requiring a minimum of 5 years for the chemopreventive benefit to fully manifest, and reaching peak power at 10 years. This means the earlier you start on a low-dose aspirin regimen, the greater your cancer risk reduction. Aspirin combats cancer at the molecular level by beneficially modulating or suppressing the activity of the pro-inflammatory enzyme cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and the “master switch” protein complex nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB). Natural interventions to minimize aspirin’s potential side effects are also indicated, including zinc carnosine as polaprezinc and extracts of cranberry and licorice. Meanwhile, drug companies are already attempting to capitalize on these findings by developing pharmacologically similar drugs no more effective than aspirin and far more costly and dangerous, including COX-2 inhibitors (coxibs) and nitric oxide-donating aspirins.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at
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