Evidence mounts linking aspirin to lower risk of ovarian cancer

Taking a low-dose aspirin daily may help women lower their risk of developing ovarian cancer. A new study co-led by Moffitt Cancer Center found that women who reported taking a low-dose aspirin every day had a 23 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer compared to nonaspirin users. The research also found that women who were heavy users of nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), over a long period of time had a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The findings were published online today by JAMA Oncology.

Ovarian cancer is the most fatal gynecological cancer, largely due to lack of early detection strategies. It is believed that inflammation that occurs during ovulation plays a role in the development of this cancer. But anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin, have been shown to lower the risk of certain types of cancers.

For this study, Shelley Tworoger, Ph.D., associate center director for Population Science at Moffitt, worked with researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to analyze data from more than 200,000 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Studies based at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Of the participants, 1,054 developed ovarian cancer. Researchers looked at the participants' use of aspirin (325 milligrams), low-dose aspirin (100 milligrams or less), non-aspirin NSAIDs and acetaminophen.

Their analysis found that low-dose aspirin use was associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer while standard-dose aspirin use was not. Conversely, the data showed that women who took non-aspirin NSAIDs often, defined by at least 10 tablets per week for many years, had an increased risk of developing the disease.

The findings help confirm research published earlier this year by Tworoger in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The study, which used data pooled from 13 studies in the Ovarian Cancer Cohort Consortium, included more than 750,000 women, of which 3,500 were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It found that daily use of aspirin reduced ovarian cancer risk by 10 percent.

"We're not quite at the stage where we could make the recommendation that daily aspirin use lowers ovarian cancer risk. We need to do more research. But it is definitely something women should discuss with their physician," said Tworoger.

Barnard ME, Poole EM, Curhan GC, Eliassen AH, Rosner BA, Terry KL, Tworoger SS.
Association of Analgesic Use With Risk of Ovarian Cancer in the Nurses' Health Studies.
JAMA Oncol. 2018 Oct 4. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.4149.

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