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Surprising Good Side Effects of Your Meds

New research finds some common drugs can help prevent cancer, improve heart health and even enhance creativity

The Drug: Aspirin to prevent heart attacks

Potential Perk: Stronger odds of colon and prostate cancer survival

The Evidence: For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, a daily dose of aspirin was associated with a 57 percent lower risk of death at 10 years, compared with those not taking aspirin, reported the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2012. In another study in the New England Journal of Medicine, colon cancer survivors whose cancer had a specific type of mutation and who regularly took aspirin had much lower cancer-related mortality rates (3 percent after five years, compared with 26 percent of those who weren't taking aspirin). Researchers speculate that aspirin may activate a protein that inhibits cancer cell growth.

The Drug: Antidepressant paroxetine (Paxil)

Potential Perk: Lower risk of heart failure

The Evidence: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work by balancing out the serotonin in the brain to improve mood. One SSRI, Paxil, may also guard against heart problems by inhibiting the function of GRK2, an enzyme that's overproduced during heart failure, according to research published in the journal ACS Chemical Biology last year. Researchers have just begun to examine the connection, though results are promising, says study coauthor John Tesmer, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Other SSRIs don't seem to make a difference.

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