February 17th, 2010
02:35 PM ET

Aspirin may reduce breast cancer spread

By Jennifer Bixler
CNN Medical Executive Producer

We've told you before that aspirin can help with heart health. Now a new study suggests taking aspirin may keep breast cancer from returning.

Harvard researchers studied more 4,000 women participating in the Nurses' Health Study. They found women who had stage 1, 2 or three breast cancer and took aspirin on a regular basis a year after diagnosis were 50 percent less likely to die or have their cancer spread than women who did not take aspirin. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

What's so special about aspirin? "We are gaining an appreciation that cancer is an inflammatory disease and aspirin is an anti-inflammatory," says Dr. Michelle Holmes, the study's lead author. While she says results are promising, Holmes empathizes this is an observational study and that clinical trials need to be done.

Dr. Eric Jacobs of the American Cancer Society agrees. He says the study results are "exciting," but also points out some important caveats. He says two earlier studies had mixed results. "It would be premature for breast cancer survivors to use aspirin in order to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence or of dying from their disease," said Jacobs in an e-mail to CNN.

So should breast cancer survivors start taking aspirin? Experts say for now, no. But if women are taking aspirin for other diseases, says Holmes, "They might take some comfort in knowing they might be preventing their cancer from returning."

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. LIz

    But why only breast cancer? Aren't all cancers inflammatory? In that case an aspirin a day can keep the cancer away? On the other hand, would an NSAID like naproxen work the same way?

    February 17, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lou

    I'm a cancer survivor and read that some studies have shown aspirin can reduce incidence of some lymphoma's mainly Hodgkin's Disease where a similar study as above was done. Unlike many other NSAID's aspirin reduces the expression of a certain inflammatory protein called nuclear factor kappa beta which is seen as a proliferator of Hodgkin's Disease cells and probably certain forms of breast cancer. Although most cancers express inflammatory proteins, these proteins are very specific to the type and form of the disease. Therefore, other NSAID's such as ibufrofen do not act upon the expression NFk-B and would not be useful in Hodkin's Disease or cancers were this inflammatory process is not expressed.

    February 18, 2010 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Debbie

    Liz-go to the American Cancer Society site for more info. They've left out that it appears to be only breast cancers that are hormone receptor positive. So it has something to do with over expressing hormones and repressing estrogen. That's probably why it's only breast cancer. Also – naproxen doesn't work the same as aspirin so it doesn't have any effect on breast cancer.

    February 18, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sue

    My family has a Breast Cancer Gene mutation. My Mother, sister, cousins, niece & second cousins had or have this disease, but I, at the age of 62 have been blessed "not" to inherit it. I have a long history of Migraines, therefore, for almost 40 yrs I have taken Ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc. This makes me wonder if these medicines are what has saved me....

    February 18, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Robert Su, Pharm.B., M.D.

    "Review: Aspirin, Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease", at http://www.carbohydratescankill.com/695/review-aspirin-diabetes-mellitus-cardiovascular-disease

    BTW, I do believe that it is very possible that daily use of Aspirin is beneficial for preventing breast cancer and other cancers. However, restricting carbohydrates can do the best.

    October 11, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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