Aspirin may be good for women with breast cancer. Data from the large, long-term Harvard study of women called the Nurses’ Health Study indicate that women taking aspirin when they are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer halve their risk of dying or of having the cancer spread to other parts of the body. There was also a hint that regular aspirin use might reduce the chance that breast cancer would recur.
There are several proposed mechanisms for the possible anti-cancer effect. Aspirin has anti-inflammatory action and this may be responsible for the positive results. Aspirin use has also been linked to a lower risk for certain other cancers such as colorectal, lung or esophageal cancer.
More than 4,000 women were included in the analysis, but experts caution that data from this type of observational study are not the last word. Instead, they suggest that scientists should do a study in which some women with breast cancer take aspirin and others take placebo. Because regular use of aspirin can cause potentially serious side effects medical supervision is advised.
[Journal of Clinical Oncology, online, Feb. 16 2010]