Drugs like aspirin may reduce the incidence of breast cancer

Author:  Allison Wilkinson

Institution:  UC Santa Barbara
Date:  March 2008

Aspirin-like drugs may have a role in treating breast cancer, according to a review of multiple studies published in the March issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice. This finding offers hope in an age when it is expected that one in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease. Ian Fentiman of London's Guy's Hospital found that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may reduce the incidence of breast cancer by up to 20 percent.

Fentiman and his colleague, Avi Agrawal, reviewed 21 studies conducted over the past 27 years which included more than 37,000 women. These studies examined the effects of NSAIDs, drugs that reduce pain, fever and inflammation, on women with breast cancer as well as women who did not have the disease.

"Our review of research published over the last 27 years suggests that, in addition to possible prevention, there may also be a role for NSAIDs in the treatment of women with established breast cancer", says Fentiman. Thus, NSAIDs may not only prevent breast cancer in women with a high-risk of developing the disease, but these relatively inexpensive drugs may also help of women already diagnosed with breast cancer.

Fentiman warns, however, that their review did not examine the possible side effects of using aspirin on a regular basis. Such side effects could include bleeding and deterioration of the digestive tract. Fentiman therefore stresses the need for further research before advising regular use of NSAIDs. However, further investigation into possible side effects may prove the use of NSAIDs to be a safe and inexpensive method of breast cancer prevention and treatment.

Written by Allison Wilkinson

Reviewed by David Metcalfe, Shandra Iannucci

Published by Pooja Ghatalia