Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer accounts for some 75 percent of all breast cancers, experts say. Women who take an aspirin each day may reduce their risk of developing this most common type of breast cancer by 16 percent, according to the results of a large study. While aspirin reduced the risk of this form of breast malignancy, other painkillers did not, the U.S. team found.
The finding could have important implications for cancer prevention, Gretchen Gierach of the National Cancer Institute says, but a lot more work is needed to see if the effect is real. Moreover, she believes that it is still too early to recommend that women start taking aspirin to prevent breast malignancy.
"This is an exciting implication, if it's true," Gierach said. "But we need further clarity from other studies."
One expert noted that chronic aspirin use can have serious consequences and should not be used for cancer prevention.
"The American Cancer Society does not recommend using aspirin for cancer prevention because aspirin can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding," said Eric J. Jacobs, Strategic Director of Pharmacoepidemiology in the department of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.
How does aspirin therapy work? Aspirin is part of a drug class nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin block two enzymes, cox-1 and cox-2. Cox-2 promotes cell growth and the development of blood vessels in tumors, and it is involved in increased estrogen production in breast tissue. Cox-1 protects the lining of the stomach, initiates blood clotting, and regulates blood flow to the kidneys. So while blocking cox-2 is good news for stopping cancer cell growth and increased estrogen tissue, by blocking the enzyme that protects the stomach lining, it can wreak havoc with the GI tract.
This study is encouraging, but also leaves me wondering... Do any foods or herbs also contain this same cox-2 blocking effect (and without the drawback of cox-1 blocking)? Let me see what I can find...