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Aspirin May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence and Death

Among women who are at least one year beyond a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer, regular aspirin use may reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death. These results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) include drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These drugs are commonly used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Studies conducted in the lab suggest that these drugs may have the ability to reduce breast cancer growth.

To explore the relationship between aspirin use and breast cancer outcomes, researchers conducted a study among more than 4,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study. The women included in the analysis had been diagnosed with Stage I-Stage III breast cancer between 1976 and 2002, and were observed until 2006.

Because women undergoing cancer treatment may need to avoid aspirin, information about aspirin use was not collected until at least one year after breast cancer diagnosis.

  • Compared with women who reported no aspirin use, risk of breast cancer death was reduced by 71% among women who used aspirin 2-5 times per week and by 64% among women who used aspirin 6-7 days per week.  Risk of distant recurrence was also reduced among aspirin users.
  • The effect of aspirin on risk of distant recurrence and death did not appear to vary by cancer stage, menopausal status, body mass index, or estrogen receptor status.

These results suggest that among women living at least one year after a breast cancer diagnosis, regular aspirin use may reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and death. However, there are significant limitations of the study and aspirin should not be considered a standard treatment to prevent breast cancer recurrence.  In addition, there are risks associated with regular aspirin use.  Women with a history of breast cancer should talk to their doctors if they have further questions.

Reference: Holmes MD, Chen WY, Li L et al. Aspirin intake and survival after breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. February 16, 2010.