Anti-inflammatory drugs and malignancy: Can an aspirin a day keep cancer at bay?

(Reviewed/revised April 2005)

Cancer is an enormously serious problem; more than 1,350,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2005, and more than 560,000 Americans will succumb to the disease. Cancer is also enormously complex. Scientists have already discovered many of the abnormalities that characterize malignant cells, and clinicians have developed treatments that can contain and even cure many cancers.

Despite this progress, prevention is always the best medicine. Preventing the nation's second leading cause of death — it sounds like a fantasy. Indeed, cancer will always be with us. Still, Harvard scientists estimate that up to 75% of cancer deaths can be prevented; Table 1 lists 10 ways you can reduce your risk of the disease.

These suggestions are simple, but taken together they should help. Still, their protection is far from complete, and it would be good to have an Eleventh Commandment of cancer prevention. Anti-inflammatory medications may fill that niche.

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