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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014

News

KDKA-TV: Study: Aspirin Beneficial In Breast Cancer Fight

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

A study in the Journal Clinical Oncology is the first to show aspirin lowering the risk of death and cancer spread for women with early stage breast cancer. (Link to Story)

But keep in mind, with everything you need to weigh the risks and benefits.

When a simple, inexpensive drug is associated with a lower risk of dying from breast cancer, people take notice.

"So it's certainly very intriguing, and aspirin has been certainly looked at with other cancers, and it did help prevent other cancers, like colon cancer, for instance. So it's not a total surprise, I guess," says Dr. Kathleen Erb at the Allegheny General Hospital Breast Center.

In a study of more than 4,000 nurses, those with early stage breast cancer had a 50 percent lower risk of dying and a 50 percent lower risk of the cancer spreading if they were taking aspirin.

"I've participated in the Nurses Health Study for about 20 years. They periodically ask me questions about my diet, exercise and that kind of thing and when you hear these kind of news and results that you participate in it's pretty exciting," says nurse Marianne Jeffries.

From 1976 to 2006, these women were followed – 341 died of breast cancer. Just two to five aspirins a week reduced the risk (71percent lower risk of breast cancer death, 60 percent lower risk of the cancer spreading). Six to seven aspirins a week lowered the risk further (64 percent lower risk of breast cancer death, 43 percent lower risk of cancer spreading). Many of the women were taking the drug to prevent heart attack and stroke.

This type of study can't establish cause and effect and relies on subjects remembering what they eat, drink and take.

"It can be difficult that way," Jeffries admits. "You try to do it to the best of your ability."

So should women with breast cancer be taking a daily aspirin? Not necessarily.

"It can lead to stomach ulcers and bleeding from your intestines," Dr. Erb points out. "Certainly I wouldn't just start taking it without the advisement of your other physicians."

And realize this won't be the last word on breast cancer and aspirin.

"I think the next step would be perhaps to do it as a prospective study, where you have women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, in a randomized fashion, have some of them regularly take aspi rin versus not. Then we can really answer the question: 'Is it helpful?'" Dr. Erb explains.

Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen -- a class called NSAIDS -- were also associated with a lower risk. The reason for this pattern isn't clear yet. It may have something to do with the anti-inflammatory effects of both aspirin and NSAIDS. But more clinical trials confirming this pattern will be needed before aspirin for breast cancer becomes widespread practice.
(

© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
 

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