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Fly comments on Living Forever is Hard, or, The Gompertz Curve - Less Wrong

46 Post author: gwern 17 May 2011 09:08PM

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Comment author: Fly 19 May 2011 07:29:47AM 2 points [-]

"Eight different randomized controlled trials suggest you're wrong."

If the studies were done 20 years ago my guess is that the original trials were performed to see if aspirin reduced the risk of heart attacks. (At least that is what I recollect from that time period.) I doubt there were many people under 30 in those trials. I saw no indication in the linked article that ages were broken out so that one could determine whether people in their 20s who took aspirin for several years had less cancer 20 years later. Since few young people would be expected to get cancer I doubt the studies show that people in their 20s developed significantly fewer cancers from taking aspirin. My guess is that most of the people in the studies were men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, i.e., those most at risk of heart attack.

"Do you really think that, in your 20s and 30s, your cells aren't accumulating damage that eventually leads to cancer, so that low-dose aspirin has nothing to prevent?"

My opinion is that the typical young person under 30 who doesn't abuse their body by smoking or excessive drinking has sufficient mechanisms to repair molecular damage so that aspirin will provide no additional benefit. Metabolism causes damage but it only becomes a problem when the body systems have deteriorated to the point where the body no longer keeps up with the damage done.

I believe that the cancer and Alzheimer prevention benefits from aspirin are due to reducing inflammation. I doubt people in their 20s typically experience mild chronic inflammation so I doubt aspirin will be beneficial. (I don't have specific papers to cite. This is just my impression from reading about cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, and inflammation for decades. I suspect you could find papers that discuss increasing inflammation levels with age and other papers that discuss the connection between inflammation and cancer and AD and other papers that discuss aspirin and inflammation reduction.) By their 40s such inflammation is common. For people in their 30s I viewed it as a toss-up.

I doubt most people in their 20s or 30s will be troubled by cancer or Alzheimer's Disease. There should be effective cures and preventative measures long before they are at significant risk.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 May 2011 12:14:19PM 3 points [-]

If the studies were done 20 years ago my guess is that the original trials were performed to see if aspirin reduced the risk of heart attacks.

Yes. The study's full text said: "We therefore determined the effect of aspirin on risk of fatal cancer by analysis of individual patient data for deaths due to cancer during randomised trials of daily aspirin versus control (done originally for primary or secondary prevention of vascular events) in which the median duration of scheduled trial treatment was at least 4 years."

There should be effective cures and preventative measures long before they are at significant risk.

Hope is not a plan.

Comment author: gwillen 09 June 2011 10:09:29PM 1 point [-]

Hope is not a plan.

I don't know if this is original, but it reminds me of the unofficial motto of Google's Site Reliability Engineering organization: "Hope is not a strategy."

Comment author: PhilGoetz 23 December 2011 04:46:20AM 1 point [-]

First I heard this phrase was a book by the Army chief of staff: Hope is not a method.

Comment author: Baughn 22 October 2011 01:25:24PM 0 points [-]

Hm? No, that's about as official as we have.