Breast cancer survivors who take aspirin regularly might benefit from more than just pain relief. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that regular aspirin use might also boost breast cancer survival.
Researchers followed more than 4,000 women from the Nurse's Health Study -- a large, ongoing study exploring the role of lifestyle factors on women's health -- who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1976 and 2002. All had stage 1, 2, or 3 breast cancer. Every two years until 2006, researchers asked the women how often they took aspirin. They did not ask how much aspirin the women took. The women reported that they took aspirin for a variety of reasons, but most often for heart disease prevention.
During the study period, 341 women died from breast cancer. But those who took aspirin at least twice weekly had better odds for surviving breast cancer than those who never used aspirin. In fact, women who took aspirin two to five days per week were 71 percent less likely to die from breast cancer. Risk for death was 64 percent lower among women who took aspirin six to seven days per week.
Aspirin use was also linked with lower risk for breast cancer coming back in other parts of the body, known as distant recurrence. Risk was 60 percent lower for those who used aspirin two to five days per week and 43 percent lower in those who used aspirin six to seven days per week.
This is the first study to find a link between aspirin use and improved survival among breast cancer patients. While no definitive cause and effect was determined, researchers suspect that aspirin may boost survival by lowering estrogen in the blood or by preventing early spread of cancer.
Although it's too early to recommend that breast cancer survivors take aspirin to lower risk for cancer recurrence or death, many women use it to help lower risk for stroke. Aspirin lowers the risk for a first stroke in women by 17 percent. It does so by helping keep your arteries clear so blood can flow to your brain.
Women ages 55 to 79 years may benefit from taking aspirin. But doing so is not without risk. It can cause your stomach to bleed, especially if you're also using another anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or naproxen.
Talk with your doctor to find out if taking aspirin to help prevent a stroke is right for you. The amount to take will depend on your age, health, and lifestyle. But most often, women should take one baby aspirin every day or one regular aspirin every other day.
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A century ago, aspirin made news by becoming the first medicine sold as a pill. Today, researchers continue to learn about its health benefits.
Besides being a fever reducer and painkiller, aspirin can lower the risk for recurrent heart attacks, chest pain, and stroke. Research also shows it may cut the risk for colon cancer in half if taken daily for 10 years.
If you want to take aspirin on a long-term basis, talk with your doctor first. Aspirin may not be right for you if you have:
Children younger than age 18 should not take aspirin. If they do, they risk developing Reye's syndrome, a condition affecting the brain and liver.
Always consult your physician for more information.