Washington, Mar 7 : A review of research published over the last 27 years has found that anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin could help reduce breast cancer by up to 20 per cent and help existing sufferers.
The review, carried out over 21 studies published between 1980 and 2007 that involved 37,000 women, was conducted by researchers at London's Guy's Hospital, who stated that based on the results, there may also be a role for NSAIDs in the treatment of women with established breast cancer.
"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," he added.
Professor Fentiman and his colleague Mr Avi Agrawal's review included 11 studies of women with breast cancer and 10 studies that compared women with and without the disease.
"Having weighed up the findings from over 20 studies, we have concluded that NSAIDs may well offer significant protection against developing breast cancer in the first place and may provide a useful addition to the treatment currently available to women who already have the disease," said Prof. Fentiman.
"Recent studies of NSAIDs use have shown about a 20 per cent risk reduction in the incidence of breast cancer, but this benefit may be confined to aspirin use alone and not other NSAIDs."
However, Prof. Fentiman stresses 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 did not look at the potential side effects of using NSAIDs on a regular basis. These can include gastrointestinal bleeding and perforation which can carry a significant risk of ill health and death," he said.
"It would be essential to take these negative effects into account before we could justify routinely using NSAIDs like aspirin to prevent breast cancer. More research is clearly needed and we are not advocating that women take these non- prescription drugs routinely until the benefits and risks are clearer.
"But our findings clearly indicate that these popular over-the-counter drugs could, if used correctly, play an important role in preventing and treating breast cancer," he added.
The review appears in the March issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice.