If you're in the habit of taking aspirin every day, we've got some great news for you. A recent study published in the Breast Cancer Research journal found that women who regularly took a low-dose aspirin had a lower risk of breast cancer.
The study analyzed data from more than 57,000 women who were part of the California Teachers Study. Researchers found that the 23 percent of women who reported regularly taking a low-dose of aspirin had a 20 percent reduced chance of developing HR-positive/HER2 negative breast cancer, which is one of the most common forms of cancer.
But if you think popping any old pain reliever will have such beneficial effects, think again. According to the study, women who took other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, as well as high-dose aspirin, did not experience such a difference in results. Previous studies have also shown mixed results in the potential for high-dose aspirin to reduce cancer risk.
This latest news builds upon research that has shown aspirin could likely reduce cancer risk and cancer-related deaths, particularly in people at risk of colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines suggest regularly taking a low-dose aspirin to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. It's not recommended for everyone, however: those with bleeding diseases such as Crohn's or ulcers are warned against taking it, as doing so could increase internal bleeding.
While the new study didn't explore why aspirin may be linked to lowering cancer risk, professor Leslie Bernstein at the Beckman Research Institute said one reason could be that it reduces inflammation.
"Simply things like obesity or inflammatory conditions are a risk factor for breast cancer, so this may be one reason it could help," Bernstein said.
Bernstein also claims that aspirin works as a aromatase inhibitor, which is common in drugs that are used to treat breast cancer. The inhibitor stops the production of estrogen, which can stimulate the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer cells. Still, Bernstein admitted that further data is needed to prove the association between aspirin and a lowered risk of cancer.
In her 2013 study, Nancy Cook, a professor at Harvard University who also researches aspirin's impact on cancer, found there was a reduction in colorectal cancer after 10 years of low-dose aspirin use but no association with reduction in breast cancer. She now warns that before adding a low-dose aspirin to your daily routine, it's important to acknowledge the limitations of the recent study.
"It's observational, [which] means that it cannot determine cause and effect," Cook said.
Still, she assured us there may be reason to celebrate.
"On the other hand, large observational studies sometimes are able to detect effects in some groups or for more rare outcomes that trials are not empowered to see, so these studies are still valuable."
What exciting news!