“This is the first study to find that aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of cancer spread and death for women who have been treated for early-stage breast cancer, " said Michelle Holmes, MD, DrPH, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School & Harvard School of Public Health and the study's lead author. “If these findings are confirmed in other clinical trials, taking aspirin may become another simple, low-cost and relatively safe tool to help women with breast cancer live longer, healthier lives."In the study, 4,164 women nurses who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer were followed for 4 years. Women who took aspirin 2-5 days per week experienced a 60% reduced risk of metastasis and 71% lower risk of death. Women who took aspirin more frequently experienced a 43% lower risk of metastasis and 64% lower risk of death. Similar benefit was seen for women who took NSAIDs 6 or 7 days a week, but there was no benefit for women who took acetaminophen.
Investigators report it is not yet clear how aspirin affects cancer cells, but they speculate it decreases the risk of cancer metastasis by reducing inflammation, which is closely associated with cancer development. Prior studies have also suggested that aspirin inhibits cancer spread: one study found that people with colon cancer who took aspirin lived longer than those who did not, and laboratory studies have also shown that aspirin inhibited the growth and invasiveness of breast cancer cells.
More research needs to be conducted to establish a direct link, but the results are encouraging. Past research has indicated a possible link between breast cancer and inflammation and is certainly worth pursuing. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in knowing more.