Health Buzz: Daily Aspirin Could Reduce Cancer Deaths

Holiday foods that are good for you; a commentary on the FDA's new food safety regulations.

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Study: Aspirin Cuts Death Risk From Array of Cancers

An aspirin a day could keep cancer away. Long-term, low-level use of the over-the-counter drug may reduce the risk of dying from certain cancers, according to a study published Monday in the journal Lancet. British researchers analyzed the results of eight trials involving more than 25,500 patients and found that those who took aspirin daily for several years were, on average, 21 percent less likely to die of stomach, lung, and other solid tumor cancers decades later, compared to those who didn't take aspirin. Twenty years after beginning the regimen, aspirin users' risk of dying from lung cancer dropped by 30 percent, their risk of colorectal cancer death fell by 40 percent, and their risk of esophageal cancer death was cut by 60 percent. "This is important as a proof of principle that a single simple compound like aspirin can reduce the risk of cancer substantially," study author Peter M. Rothwell told The New York Times. "There's been a lot of work over the years showing that certain compounds can increase the risk of cancer, but it's not been shown before that we can reduce the risk with something as simple as aspirin." But the drug isn't risk-free and probably not meant for everyone: A daily dose of aspirin increases the risk of ulcers and nearly doubles the risk of internal bleeding to one in every 2,000 to 3,000 people.

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  • Skip the Eggnog! These Holiday Foods Are Good for You

    It's hard to avoid indulging during the holidays. But do you have to? Actually, holiday foods aren't all bad, U.S. News's Megan Johnson reports. Excluding, say, eggnog, fried latkes, and other calorie-laden treats, some things that could land on your plate this season are in fact healthy.

    Oysters—which supposedly taste best in the winter months—are an example. Traditionally served in stew on Christmas Eve, the mollusks contain more zinc than any other food. Zinc is a mineral that helps fight off infections and heal wounds, making oysters good for the immune system. They also contain vitamin B12 and iron, required to make red blood cells, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for heart health.

    Maybe you have a favorite holiday dish: green bean or sweet potato casserole—or, perhaps, oyster stew. Recipes for these and many other festive dishes usually call for whole milk or cream and butter. But with that slice of pecan pie, made with sugar and eggs, a single celebratory feast could easily max out your daily allowance of calories. Still, you can make lighter, healthier versions with a few improvements. Top green bean casserole with sliced almonds instead of fried onions, and use fat-free cream of mushroom soup instead of the regular kind, suggests Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. In her dishes, Thayer uses skim milk and egg whites in lieu of whole milk and whole eggs. [Read more: Skip the Eggnog! These Holiday Foods Are Good for You.]

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    • New Food Safety Regulations? It's About Time

      The food safety bill passed by the Senate last week would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration far greater authority to stop contaminated food from getting into supermarkets and onto our plates. What's amazing is that if the bill becomes law, this will be the first time the FDA's food safety regulations will have been updated since 1938—before penicillin came into widespread use. It's even more amazing, given that an estimated 76 million Americans get food poisoning every year, resulting in more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's similar to the number of yearly deaths that used to be caused by polio, which led to widespread panic and repeated calls for a vaccine before one was finally developed in 1955. Yet, the prevention of foodborne illnesses has hardly gotten the same attention from Congress. Until now.