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Aspirin reduces ovarian cancer risk up to 34%

Teresa Tanoos's picture
Study finds taking small dose of aspirin daily may prevent ovarian cancer.

Women who take aspirin daily could lower their risk of ovarian cancer by up to 34 percent depending on dosage and frequency, according to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Around 22,240 American women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2013, and over 14,000 will die from the disease this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Early detection is key to successful treatment, but early detection of ovarian cancer can be difficult because symptoms – such as bloating and lower abdominal pain – usually don’t show up until the disease has already advanced to its late stages.

Moreover, the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often mistaken for another condition because abdominal pain and feeling bloated are similar to other problems, including digestive and bladder disorders. As a result, ovarian cancer is frequently overlooked as the cause of such symptoms, so by the time it is diagnosed, it’s usually too late for treatment to be optimally effective.

Anyone who suffers from chronic inflammation is more likely to be at risk for developing cancer, but prior research suggests that taking a low-dose aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may lower the cancer risk.

In this latest study, however, researchers took a harder look at the association between anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of ovarian cancer to determine if such drugs really can be effective in preventing cancer.

For this new study, the researchers examined data from 12 other studies involving 7,776 women with ovarian cancer, as well as 1,843 women without the disease, who participated in the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium.

The researchers wanted to find out if there was a link between women who took aspirin, non-aspirin NSAIDS or acetaminophen and a lower risk of ovarian cancer.

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Among the participants, 24 percent took a daily dose of NSAIDS, 18 percent took a daily dose of aspirin and 16 percent took just one dose of aspirin per week.

As a result, the researchers found that a link between daily aspirin and a lower ovarian cancer risk existed, as the women who took a small daily dose of aspirin (less than 100 mg) had a 20 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared with the women who took only a single dose of aspirin in one week.

The researchers also said that aspirin could further lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer by up to 34 percent by adjusting the frequency and dose of the drug.

Meanwhile, women who took a single high dose (over 500 mg) non-aspirin NSAIDS (like ibuprofen) at least once per week also lowered their ovarian cancer risk, but only by10 percent, which the researchers considered nominal and not within the scope of being “statistically significant”.

And for the women who took acetaminophen, there was no reduction at all in their risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The researchers caution women to first seek the advice of their doctor before starting any aspirin therapy. They also warned that, for some people, a daily dose of aspirin can cause severe side effects, such as stomach bleeding and inflammation – even hemorrhagic stroke.

Nevertheless, study co-author Britton Trabert, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, said that their study suggests that daily use of aspirin, which has been proven to help prevent heart attacks, appears to also help protect against ovarian cancer too.

By the same token, Trabert points out that more research is needed “to explore the delicate balance of risk-benefit for this potential chemopreventive agent,” including research into how aspirin works to lower the risk of ovarian cancer in women.

SOURCE: Aspirin, Nonaspirin Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug, and Acetaminophen Use and Risk of Invasive Epithelial Ovarian Cancer: A Pooled Analysis in the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt431, Britton Trabert et al., published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, February 2014.