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Aspirin: The Elixir of Life?

Three new studies show the surprising benefits of taking low doses of aspirin daily.

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

April 20, 2012 - 12:00 am
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At last we have found the elixir of life, more or less. It is called aspirin.

Previous elixirs of life have, of course, proved illusory; the historian of Chinese science, and Maoist fellow-traveler, Joseph Needham, published a list of emperors who died poisoned by their supposed elixirs. Indeed, Maoism itself was once supposed to be an elixir of life. Here, for example, is something published during the Cultural Revolution:

Under the guidance of the great thought of Mao Tse-tung, the Mao Tse-tung’s thought medical team of the Chinese P.L.A. Unit 3125 treated 105 students of the Fuhsien School for Deaf-Mutes in Liaoning Province, enabling all of them to recover their hearing and speaking faculties. Now everyone of them can cheer “Long live Chairman Mao!” and recite quotations from Chairman Mao. After some training many can already sing The East Is Red and recite Chairman Mao’s “good old three” articles. This is a tremendous achievement gained in the upsurge of struggle-criticism/transformation of the great proletarian cultural revolution.

It turns out that the elixir of Maoism killed incomparably more people than the old superstitious emperors’ elixirs; so that now we are more modest in our hopes.

Three recent papers in The Lancet propose the benefits of low-dose aspirin both in the prevention of certain cancers and in their spread once they have developed. Professor Rothwell, of Oxford University, was the main author of all three papers, but this should not affect their validity or otherwise.

The first of the papers compared the rates of cancer deaths in those who took part in randomized controlled trials of daily low-dose aspirin to prevent cerebrovascular events (strokes). The risk of cancer death was reduced by something like 15 percent in those who took long-term aspirin. The longer the aspirin was taken, the stronger the protective effect.

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