Aspirin, the time trusted treatment for headaches and muscle pains, may offer a more substantial benefit in the long run: preventing the onset of some types of cancer. A recent study published this week by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that taking a daily aspirin could lower the risk of ovarian cancer in women. The study looked at the symptoms and medication of 20,000 different women – an analysis of 12 different epidemiological studies of cancers. Eight-thousand of the subjects looked at had had some type of cancer in the past or had been diagnosed. Eighteen percent of the women involved in these studies had used aspirin regularly, versus 24 percent who used other non-aspirin drugs or NSAIDs, and 16 percent who took acetaminophen regularly.
The study’s results suggested that those who took aspirin on a regular basis were 20 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer, and those who took the non-aspirin NSAIDs were 10 percent less likely. The authors also reported no correlation between regular use of acetaminophen and reduced risk of ovarian cancer, and suggested that the lowered risk for people who took non-aspirin NSAIDs was not statistically significant enough to be of any consistent benefit. Although the study is consistent with other findings which suggested that regular aspirin use had effectiveness in reducing other cancers such as colon and skin cancers, the researchers are holding off on making the recommendation of an aspirin a day as part of standard clinical practice, at least for now.
One of the study’s authors, Britton Trabert, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, said in a statement: “Additional studies are needed to explore the delicate balance of risk-benefit for this potential chemopreventive agent, as well as studies to identify the mechanism by which aspirin may reduce ovarian cancer risk.”
Studies up until now have been consistent enough to suggest that aspirin has properties that not only reduce the risk, but may work to avert recurrence of some types of cancers, such as breast cancer. Anti-inflammatory properties, which aspirins use to reduce pain, are the most likely suspect, as they are not present in acetaminophen.