Aspirin, Tagamet, and Cancer
Julian Whitaker, MD
I usually write about the benefits of nutritional supplements and other natural therapies for disease prevention and treatment. However, I would be remiss if I ignored promising therapies, simply because they are pharmaceuticals. That’s why I want to tell you about two inexpensive, relatively safe drugs that have been shown to provide dramatic protection against cancer.
Aspirin Reduces Cancer Risk
You likely know that regular aspirin use can help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends low-dose aspirin for those who have had a heart attack, stroke, angina or transient ischemic attack (“mini-stroke”). But despite its clear-cut value, only one in four people who would benefit from aspirin actually take it.
If reduced risk of heart attack and stroke isn’t enough to get you started, maybe the latest news will do it. Several studies have shown that regular aspirin intake is linked with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer. Now, New York University researchers have found that taking aspirin three or four times a week cut women’s risk of ovarian cancer by 40 percent, and early research suggests links with a reduction in cancers of the stomach, esophagus, breast, and lungs. Furthermore, aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
These seemingly unrelated conditions share one common feature: out-of-control inflammation. Aspirin’s preventive effects are likely due to its ability to keep inflammation in check. For anyone at risk of heart disease, I recommend taking one-half of a regular 325 mg aspirin (162.5 mg) every other day, or one baby aspirin (81 mg) every day.
Note to aspirin users: New research suggests taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before your aspirin may limit aspirin’s heart benefits. Patients who take both drugs should take aspirin at least two hours prior to ibuprofen.
Tagamet for Colon Cancer
Tagamet (cimetidine) is an over-the-counter drug that lowers the production of stomach acid and has been taken by people with ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux since the mid-1970s. Although other therapies are superior to Tagamet for the treatment of these conditions, it is an excellent, yet inexplicably overlooked therapy for a completely different disease: colorectal cancer.
A Japanese study of patients with colon cancer found that when patients were given 800 mg of Tagamet every day for a year following surgery to remove their primary tumor, those with the most aggressive types of tumors had a three-fold improvement in 10-year survival rates. An earlier study found that taking this inexpensive drug for just seven days around the time of surgery lowered the three-year death rate from 41 to 7 percent.
Tagamet inhibits the activity of histamine, a chemical messenger that suppresses the immune response. It also puts the brakes on metastasis and may have other anti-cancer actions.
- For anyone at risk of heart disease, I recommend taking one-half of a regular 325 mg aspirin (162.5 mg) every other day, or one baby aspirin (81 mg) every day.
- If you are being treated for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about adding Tagamet to your treatment protocol.
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