Aspirin may ward off cancerous tumors, from Harvard Men's Health Watch

Aspirin has earned its good name from its ability to relieve pain, soothe arthritis, and reduce fever. Its most important preventive benefit is the ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in vulnerable individuals. And, according to the October 2011 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch, new research suggests this old standby may soon find a new role in fighting cancer.

Aspirin inhibits the action of two enzymes in the body: COX-1 and COX-2. One of these, COX-2, triggers the production of chemicals that cause fever, create inflammation in joints and other tissues, and aggravate pain. Research suggests that these same COX-2 enzymes may have a role in certain cancers. COX-2 appears to promote the growth of new blood vessels to support the rapid growth of tumors and may also interact with various growth factors to stimulate the multiplication of malignant cells. It also appears to inhibit apoptosis, a natural defense mechanism that helps prevent runaway tumor growth by triggering cell death by suicide.

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