Women who take a regular dose of baby aspirin may reduce their risk of breast cancer, according to a study published May 1 in Breast Cancer Research.
Low dose “baby” aspirin taken on a long term, regular basis has long been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart attack. More recently, the drug has been found to lower the risk of colorectal cancer, however, evidence has been less clear that aspirin reduces risk of developing other types of cancer. Now data obtained from a 10-year follow-up of the 1995-1996 California Teachers Study indicates taking 81 milligrams of aspirin at least three times per week may also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Researchers found study participants who took low-dose aspirin were 20 percent less likely to develop hormone receptor-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer and effectively reduced the risk of developing any type of breast cancer by 16 percent compared to women who took no nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
The study is the first of its kind to suggest that the low-dose aspirin and not regular (325 mg) aspirin is associated with breast cancer risk reduction. But researchers noted there are factors that should be taken into account. Some women in the study taking low-dose aspirin for cardiovascular risk might have been taking it daily, which could produce different results from those women who took regular aspirin only occasionally for pain relief.
Additional limitations noted by study authors include evidence that hormone replacement therapy and alcohol use – both risk factors for breast cancer – were higher than normal among the study group participants, the median age was 61 years, the women were primarily white and all information was self-reported on a questionnaire.
Although the information derived from the study is beneficial, women should not start an aspirin regime without first discussing the risks and benefits with their doctors. Since aspirin interferes with blood clotting, the drug increases bleeding risk. Before recommending an aspirin regime, experts suggest several long-term studies are needed to determine the safest, most effective way aspirin can be used to reduce cancer risk.