Women who report regular use of aspirin appear to have a reduced risk of breast cancer, according to a study in the May 26th issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. While cancer epidemiology and prevention have traditionally focused on the identification and modification of lifestyle factors that may increase or decrease the risk of various cancers, much recent attention has been centered on chemoprevention, the use of chemical agents to prevent or inhibit the carcinogenic process, according to background information in the article.
Use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been associated with a decrease in the risk of several cancers, including breast cancer. Given the importance of estrogen in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, the ability of aspirin and other NSAIDs to protect against breast cancer could vary according to hormone receptor status.
Mary Beth Terry, Ph.D., of Columbia University, and colleagues conducted a study to determine the association between the frequency and duration of use of aspirin and other NSAIDs and breast cancer risk and whether any observed association is more pronounced for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. The study, which included in-person interviews, was conducted during 1996 to 1997. There were 1,442 breast cancer cases and 1,420 controls.
Preventing Breast Cancer
The researchers found that use of aspirin or other NSAIDs at least once per week for 6 months or longer was reported in 301 cases (20.9 percent) and 345 controls (24.3 percent) with a 20 percent lower risk of breast cancer for use versus nonusers.
“Our data, supported by other epidemiologic and laboratory evidence, bolster the case for the use of aspirin and NSAIDs as chemopreventive agents against breast cancer, particularly among postmenopausal women,” wrote the researchers.
“The mechanisms are probably distinct from those that are protective against gastrointestinal tract cancers. There are many attractive features to such a chemopreventive agent, including its ease of use and association with reducing risk of other health outcomes. The potential benefits need to be balanced against potential harmful effects of long-term aspirin use such as peptic ulcer disease and gastrointestinal bleeding,” the researchers concluded.