A Baby Aspirin a Day May Decrease Risk of Common Breast Cancer
Many people take a low-dose aspirin each day to protect their heart. For women, this practice may also be protective against the most common type of breast cancer.
Most breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive – about 70 percent - meaning that the tumors have special proteins inside, called hormone receptors. When hormones such as estrogen and progesterone attach to these receptors, the cancer cells can grow.
Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers are treated with therapies that include tamoxifen and the aromatase inhibitors – anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara), or exemestane (Aromasin).
Researchers have recently learned that a daily low-dose aspirin can act as a mild aromatase inhibitor, which may reduce the amount of estrogen circulating in the blood and therefore could reduce the risk of this common subtype of breast cancer.
In a study conducted by Christina Clarke at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, use of low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) at least three times a week was linked to a 20% risk reduction for hormone receptor positive/HER2 negative breast cancer. For all types of breast cancer, the risk reduction was around 16%.
The study, which began in 1995, included data from more than 133,000 women teachers.
Keep in mind, though, that with most findings such as this, more studies are needed before we can start recommending this regimen to all women as a preventive effort for breast cancer. The risk reduction was “moderate”, and Leslie Bernstein, a professor at the City of Hope Cancer Center in California, notes that exercise trumps medication when it comes to preventing breast cancer.
For now, if you already are on an aspirin regimen recommended by your doctor for cardiac health, just know that you are protecting your body in more ways than one.
Christina A. Clarke, Leslie Bernstein, et al. Regular and low-dose aspirin, other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and prospective risk of HER2-defined breast cancer: the California Teachers Study. Breast Cancer Research 2017 19:52
Susan G. Komen Foundation
By Ragesoss (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons