Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin may reduce breast cancer by up to 20 per cent, according to an extensive review carried out by experts at Londons Guys Hospital and published in the March issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
But they stress that further research is needed to determine the best type, dose and duration and whether the benefits of regularly using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) outweigh the side effects, especially for high-risk groups.
Our review of research published over the last 27 years suggests that, in addition to possible prevention, there may also be a role for NSAIDs in the treatment of women with established breast cancer says Professor Ian Fentiman from the Hedley Atkins Breast Unit at the hospital, part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.
NSAID use could be combined with hormone therapy or used to relieve symptoms in the commonest cause of cancer-related deaths in women.
Professor Fentiman and Mr Avi Agrawal reviewed 21 studies covering more than 37,000 women published between 1980 and 2007.
Their review included 11 studies of women with breast cancer and ten studies that compared women who did and did not have the disease.
The purpose of a review like this is to look at a wide range of published studies and see if it is possible to pull together all the findings and come to any overarching conclusions explains Professor Fentiman. This includes looking at any conflicting results and exploring how the studies were carried out.
For example some of the studies we looked at as part of this review found no links between NSAIDs and reduced levels of breast cancer, while others suggested that taking NSAIDs can reduce the breast cancer risk by about a fifth.
Having weighed up the findings from over 20 studies, we have concluded that NSAIDs may well offer significant protection against developing breast cancer in th
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