ONCOLOGY

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Regular Aspirin Use May Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk

 

It is estimated that over 20,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, and more than 14,000 will die from the disease. Early stage ovarian cancer may be successfully treated. However, symptoms associated with this disease can mimic more common conditions, such as digestive and bladder disorders, so for this reason and others, it is often not diagnosed until it has reached advanced stages. Late stage ovarian cancer leaves women with limited treatment options and poor prognoses, making preventive strategies potentially important for controlling this disease.

 

According to an article published online (6 February 2014) in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, women who take aspirin daily may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 20%. However, according to the authors, further research is needed before clinical recommendations can be made.

 

It has been reported that chronic or persistent inflammation has been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. Previous studies have suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin and non-aspirin NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), may reduce cancer risk overall. However, studies examining whether use of these agents may influence ovarian cancer risk have been largely inconclusive. This is the largest study to date to assess the relationship between these drugs and ovarian cancer risk.

 

For the study, the authors analyzed data pooled from 12 large epidemiological studies to investigate whether women who used aspirin, non-aspirin NSAIDs, or acetaminophen have a lower risk of ovarian cancer. These 12 studies (9 from the US) were part of the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium. The scientists evaluated the benefit of these drugs in nearly 8,000 women with ovarian cancer and close to 12,000 women who did not have the disease.

 

Results showed that among study participants who reported whether or not they used aspirin regularly: 18% used aspirin, 24% used non-aspirin NSAIDs, and 16% used acetaminophen. Results of the analysis showed that participants who reported daily aspirin use had a 20% lower risk of ovarian cancer than those who used aspirin less than once per week. For non-aspirin NSAIDs, which include a wide variety of drugs, the picture was less clear: a 10% lower ovarian cancer risk among women who used NSAIDs at least once per week was observed compared with those who used NSAIDs less frequently. However, this finding did not fall in a range that was significant statistically. In contrast to the findings for aspirin and NSAIDs, use of acetaminophen, which is not an anti-inflammatory agent, was not associated with reduced ovarian cancer risk.

 

This study adds to a growing list of malignancies, such as colorectal and other cancers, that appear to be potentially preventable by aspirin usage.

 

Adverse side effects of daily aspirin use include upper gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. Therefore, a daily aspirin regimen should only be undertaken with a doctor’s approval, caution the scientists.

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