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Aspirin, Selenium, and Cancer

During my flight to Seattle, the person seated next to me had his laptop open and was editing a highly technical medical document. I noticed some of the language in it, took a guess, and asked him, "Are you a cancer researcher at the Hutch?" ("The Hutch" is the nickname for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.) He replied that he was. I picked his brain about the latest news in the war on cancer.

He didn't talk about wonder cures or magic bullets, but he did talk about chemotherapy-type treatments with fewer side effects. More relevant to me (and most readers), he talked about research efforts focused on preventing cancer in the first place. Apparently the evidence for aspirin as an anti-cancer agent continues to grow. (A New England Journal of Medicine study linking daily aspirin use with lowered rates of polyps that could lead to colorectal cancer can be found here.) The other agent he discussed was selenium, which is being studied extensively for cancer-preventing qualities. (There's CNN coverage here, and more detailed information here.)

His bottom line was that he takes an aspirin a day, for its effects in preventing both heart disease and cancer, and that he doesn't take a selenium supplement because he gets enough in his diet and from the environment, but if that weren't the case, he would take selenium daily. I'm already using aspirin but will add selenium to my repertoire, unless I'm already getting enough of it (200 micrograms) in my multivitamin, which I'll check when I return home.

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