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Study: Vitamin E, Aspirin Do Not Reduce Heart Disease, Cancer Risk

A study of nearly 40,000 women has found that low daily doses of aspirin do not prevent most cancers, and daily use of vitamin E is not effective in preventing heart disease and cancer. But the study said low doses of aspirin may reduce the risk of lung cancer.

It is now widely accepted that heart disease is caused by inflammation of heart muscle. So, people, at the recommendation of their doctors or on their own, take vitamin E, one of a group of antioxidants, or anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin, hoping to prevent heart disease.

But a new 12-year study of almost 40,000 healthy women in Boston counters that view.

Concerning vitamin E, the study has found that 600 units taken every other day, provided no significant benefit in preventing heart attack and stroke.

Despite the disappointing news, study author I-Min Lee of Brigham and Women's Hospital says there was an encouraging finding.

"Vitamin E supplementation had no effect on heart attacks. It had no effect on stroke, but it did reduce cardiovascular deaths by 24 percent," Dr. Lee noted.

Women in the same study were also given 100 milligrams of aspirin every other day. As with vitamin E, the aspirin was shown to have no benefit in preventing cancer or increasing cancer survival among women.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA).

In a second article in the journal, the authors studied the effects of low dose aspirin, 100 milligrams every other day, in the prevention of a number of cancers. Again, the researchers found aspirin had no protective effect against colon, breast or other types of cancer. But they did find a slight reduction in the risk of lung cancer among women who took aspirin.

Nancy Cook is one of the study's authors.

"Our results aren't definitive by themselves. So they need to be confirmed in other studies," said Ms. Cook.

While people await the results of those studies, an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association recommends that a healthy lifestyle through proper nutrition and exercise has proven benefits.