Aspirin boosts breast cancer survival rate

February 17, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Coated aspirin tablets. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

( -- An observational study of 4,164 women diagnosed with breast cancer showed those taking aspirin in the period after diagnosis had a much lower rate of recurrence, and a much higher survival rate than those who did not.

The study analyzed the use of by women who had been diagnosed with stage 1, 2 or 3 between the years 1976 and 2002. All participants were taking part in the Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 238,000 nurses in the US for three decades. The women were followed until their death or the cut-off date of June 2006. During this period 341 of the women died of breast cancer, and 400 had metastases or their cancer returned. The women who were taking aspirin were taking it for other conditions, and most were taking low-dose aspirin to ward off stroke and heart attacks.

Dr Michelle Holmes, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Harvard Medical school, who carried out the study, found a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of death during the follow-up period in women taking aspirin. The best results were for those taking aspirin between two and five days a week (71% reduction), while those taking it six to seven days had a slightly lower (64%) reduction. Overall, taking aspirin gave the women a 50 per cent reduction in the risk of death, and also reduced the risk of the cancer returning. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including and ibuprofen, also reduced the risks.

The study was observational and therefore does not establish definitive cause and effect or explain how aspirin reduces the risks, and the data only revealed the number of days the women took aspirin, and not the dosage. Holmes said the findings agree with the results of some earlier studies. She said that we are beginning to realize that “cancer is an inflammatory disease, and aspirin is an anti-inflammatory.” It may work by lowering the blood level of estrogens, or could prevent the early spread of cancer in some way, Holmes said.

Holmes said that aspirin has negative effects in some people and can cause bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, and it should never be used as a substitute for traditional cancer treatments. As the paper, published online yesterday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, notes there may be some skewing of the results since women are advised to stop taking aspirin during chemotherapy, and this could result in an over-estimation of the benefits of aspirin. More study and clinical trials will be needed to confirm the findings, but if women with breast cancer are taking aspirin for other conditions they may also be helping to prevent their cancer from returning.

More information: Aspirin Intake and Survival After Breast Cancer, J. Clin. Oncol. 0: JCO.2009.22.7918v1. DOI:10.1200/JCO.2009.22.7918

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Cell-weighing method could help doctors choose cancer drugs

November 20, 2017
Doctors have many drugs available to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. However, there is no way to predict, by genetic markers or other means, how a patient will respond to a particular drug. This can lead to ...

Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension

November 17, 2017
Shortness of breath and respiratory distress often increase the suffering of advanced-stage lung cancer patients. These symptoms can be triggered by pulmonary hypertension, as scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart ...

Researchers discover an Achilles heel in a lethal leukemia

November 16, 2017
Researchers have discovered how a linkage between two proteins in acute myeloid leukemia enables cancer cells to resist chemotherapy and showed that disrupting the linkage could render the cells vulnerable to treatment. St. ...

Computer program finds new uses for old drugs

November 16, 2017
Researchers at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have developed a computer program to find new indications for old drugs. The computer program, called DrugPredict, ...

Pharmacoscopy improves therapy for relapsed blood cancer in a first clinical trial

November 16, 2017
Researchers at CeMM and the Medical University of Vienna presented a preliminary report in The Lancet Hematology on the clinical impact of an integrated ex vivo approach called pharmacoscopy. The procedures measure single-cell ...

Wider sampling of tumor tissues may guide drug choice, improve outcomes

November 15, 2017
A new study focused on describing genetic variations within a primary tumor, differences between the primary and a metastatic branch of that tumor, and additional diversity found in tumor DNA in the blood stream could help ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.