Aspirin, the wonder drug that can help prevent heart attacks and strokes, appears to reduce women's chances of developing the most common type of breast cancer, a study found. The authors of the study said that the findings are tantalizing but that more research is needed before doctors can recommend that women take aspirin to ward off breast cancer. The study appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association and was led by researchers Mary Beth Terry and Alfred Neugut of Columbia University.
Previous studies reached conflicting conclusions as to whether there is a link between aspirin and breast cancer. This is the first study to examine whether aspirin might influence the growth of specific types of tumors, said Raymond DuBois, director of cancer prevention at Vanderbilt University's Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. The reduced risk was found for tumors whose growth is fueled by the sex hormones estrogen or progesterone. About 70% of breast cancer cases are of this type, called hormone receptor-positive.
Women in the study who used aspirin at least four times a week for at least three months were almost 30% less likely to develop hormone-fueled breast cancer than women who used no aspirin. The link with aspirin was strongest in women who took seven or more tablets a week and was greater in postmenopausal women than in younger women--which the researchers said makes sense given that hormone-fueled tumors are more common in older women. Aspirin had no effect on the risk of developing the other type of tumor, hormone receptor-negative. Researchers suspect that aspirin works by interfering with the body's production of estrogen.
Similar studies have suggested that aspirin might reduce the risks of developing other kinds of cancer, including pancreatic and ovarian cancer and Hodgkin's disease. But these studies could not say definitively whether other factors might explain the results. And like the breast cancer research reported in JAMA Wednesday, many of these studies relied on subjects' recollections of how often they took aspirin. (AP)