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Can Aspirin Prevent Ovarian Cancer

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" but what about "An aspirin a day. . ."?  Most doctors now recommend that men over 40 and women at increased risk for heart disease take a baby aspirin a day to reduce their risk.  Now, women may have even more reason to consider aspirin:  a recent study (presented at the Society for Gynecologic Oncologists annual meeting 3/6/01) suggests that aspirin use three or more times per week for at least six months may actually decrease the risk of the most common form of ovarian cancer by 40%!

This study was conducted by Dr. Arslan Akhmedkhanov  of New York University.  It evaluated 748 women for an average of 12 years.

Dr. Akhmedkhav:   "Evidence suggests that chronic inflammation, similar to the inflammation seen in endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, could be related to epithelial ovarian cancer.  One way to evaluate the role of inflammation in ovarian cancer is to examine the effect of common anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin on epithelial ovarian cancer risk. Our data, combined with other similar research indicates aspirin may have broader anticarcinogenic properties than previously thought."

Four other studies have addressed the role of aspirin and similar anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in ovarian cancer. Three of these studies suggested a protective benefit; one study found no effect.

Why is this news exciting?  Ovarian cancer has an insidious onset, no reliable screening tests, and it's often difficult to diagnose, so any news about reducing its risk is welcome. Ovarian cancer is the  fifth cause of cancer death in women claiming 14,000 lives in the US this year.

The only other known preventive medicine to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer is taking birth control pills for at least 5 years.

Of course, this information is still preliminary.  There are risks of regular aspirin use, so women should consult with their doctors before starting any long-term aspirin regimen.  Click here for related information.

Created: 4/23/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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