Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Benefits of Aspirin After Breast Cancer

By Deb Kirkland, RN, BSN, MPH
Nurse Navigator, Herman & Walter Samuelson Breast Center at Northwest Hospital

A study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, “Aspirin Intake and Survival After Breast Cancer,” suggests there is an associated decreased risk of distant recurrence of breast cancer and breast cancer death in women who were taking aspirin. The study results were published February 16 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The 4,164 subjects were breast cancer survivors participating in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS); these women were from all over the U.S., diagnosed with stage I to III breast cancer between 1976 and 2002, and were followed until June 2006 (or their death, whichever came first).

What can we conclude from this study? Women who took a simple baby aspirin 2 to 5 days per week had a 60 percent risk reduction of their cancer spreading distally and a 71 percent reduced risk of breast cancer death. Women who took aspirin 6 to 7 times per week lowered the risk of distal recurrence by 43 percent and had reduced risk of breast cancer death by 64 percent. Overall, these women taking aspirin had a 50 percent reduced risk of distal recurrence and 50 percent reduced risk in breast cancer death.

This was an observational study, which means it suggests a relationship, but is not designed to prove a cause and effect link. What we do know is that there is an association present between aspirin and a lower risk of recurrence or death. It is believed the aspirin’s anti-inflammatory properties are what contribute to the benefit.

What does this mean if you have had breast cancer? It's important to remember that in the study, the women started aspirin one year post-diagnosis. Aspirin is not indicated for patients currently undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. Women need to be aware there is associated risk involved with taking aspirin, such as bleeding and stomach problems, such as ulcers.

However, if you are a breast cancer survivor and you are taking aspirin for protective cardiac measures, there may be a benefit in reducing breast cancer recurrence. Data suggest further studies, such as clinical trials that include aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, are needed to discover if there is a direct cause and effect link. Currently, there are various studies with the use of COX 2-inhibitors and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in breast cancer. Studies have indicated these anti-inflammatory drugs may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.

1 comment:

suzane said...

Of the total, 196 were taking aspirin, 58 were taking Coumadin, and 24 were on Plavix. The other men weren't taking any anti-clotting medication. About four years after they were, cancer treatments [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] recurred in only 9% of men taking an anti-clotting medication, compared with 22% of those who weren't taking the drugs. After taking into account other risk factors for recurrence, taking an anti-clotting medication was associated with a 46% lower risk of recurrence, Choe says.

The benefit was most pronounced in men with high-risk aggressive cancers that had not yet spread at the time of radiation [use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors] treatment. In this group, cancer recurred in 18% of men on anticoagulants vs. 42% of men not taking the drugs.