A recent study, reported in the medical journal The Lancet, found that taking a daily dose of aspirin can reduce the risk of cancer. The new study, led by Dr. Peter Rothwell of Britain's Oxford University, found that low-dose aspirin can reduce the risk of some cancers by as much as 50 percent. That, of course, is huge.

For a long time, it has been suspected that aspirin may be a cancer-preventive. However, clinical studies have been mixed, and these results are the best yet to be reported. According to Dr. Harold Kaufman, head of cancer treatment center at Rush University Hospital in Chicago, the new study was “well designed and very compelling.”

The greatest effect was seen in colorectal cancer, but an impressive effect was also seen in many other types of cancer, including lung, breast and prostate cancers. These are about the most common kinds of cancer that there are.

No one knows for sure how aspirin works, but in regard to colo-rectal cancer, we know that aspirin increases the shedding of the cells that line the digestive tract, and as these cells shed, the early manifestations of intestinal polyps may get sloughed off in the process, nixing their further development. The general anti-inflammatory effect of aspirin may also be a factor.

Of course, there is risk to taking aspirin. It is a powerful irritant, and it’s been said that every time you take an aspirin, it makes a hole in the lining of your stomach. The way to minimize that risk is to:

keep the dose of aspirin small, such as a baby aspirin (81 mg),

take it after your largest meal of the day so that when it hits your stomach it lands on food and not on membrane,

and finally, take a buffered form of aspirin.

I have taken a look at this study, and I must admit that it looks impresive. Indeed, there may be something to it. However, I have NOT started to take aspirin. I am holding on to the idea as a possibility for myself in the future, but I am going to pass on it for now. And here’s why:

I have a fear of aspirin. I have known, and known of, people who have died from taking high doses of aspirin, and that includes one suicide, and it was a very painful death for this person. He actually regretted it after swallowing a whole lot of aspirin, and he called 9-1-1 for help, but it was too late; they could not save him even though they got to him.

I think about what Dr. Herbert Shelton used to say, that if something is toxic and deadly in a high dose, that it’s effect in a smaller dose is in the same direction. It is just a lesser degree of the same effect and not a different effect. And with that thought in mind, it does seem that we are poisoning ourselves whenever we take aspirin.

However, this concept of Shelton’s, although generally true and often worth respecting, may be overly simplistic. We know for instance that there is a big difference between chewing on a coca leaf and taking cocaine. Coca leaves contain “coca alkaloids” in the amount of .4%, and the stimulating effect has been compared to drinking coffee. However, when these leaves are processed into pure cocaine powder, it becomes infinitely more potent and dangerous.

Well, we can make an analogy with aspirin because “natural salicylates” occur in a wide variety of plants, including common fruits and vegetables. But, in the context of the whole plant food, there is zero chance of incurring the potential harm from aspirin. In other words, you can’t develop stomach bleeding, ulcers, or have a hemorrhagic stroke from eating fruits and vegetables, but people could die and do die from taking aspirin.

So, there is definitely risk involved with taking aspirin. However, we should keep it in perspective. By taking it conservatively- in the manner I described above- the risk can be minimized, and the risk/reward ratio may indeed be quite positive, not for everyone, but for a large percentage of people. It’s often said that one should always consult with a trusted doctor before beginning an aspirin regimen- whether it’s for cancer prevention or heart disease prevention or both- and I’m sure that’s good advice.

But for me, at this time, I am not going to begin an aspirin regimen. I simply do not feel that my personal cancer risk is great enough to warrant assuming the risk that aspirin therapy poses, no matter how small. Besides, I am doing other things for cancer prevention. For instance, I take melatonin at night, and if you read Dr. Pierpaoli, he says that melatonin is like a “smart bomb” that gets into every nook and cranny with its anti-cancer effect. I also take optimized turmeric, which has effects that are directly comparable to aspirin (blood-thinning, anti-inflammatory) but without any risk of bleeding.

But, I will continue following the aspirin studies as they come out, and I will keep an open mind about this.  I won’t rule out taking aspirin at some point in the future if I feel my situation warrants it.