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Study: Over-the-Counter Drugs Help Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

Posted - Sep. 26, 2003 at 11:26 a.m.



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The study is the Women's Health Initiative.

In the past year it's produced a number of reports on hormone replacement therapy-- all of them bad news.

But there's much more to this ongoing nationwide study. The goal is to find ways to improve health after menopause. And this new study may have done just that.

They're called NSAIDs-- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs-- popular painkillers found in almost every medicine cabinet.

Taken regularly, they just might cut your risk of breast cancer. That's according to the new data from the Women's Health Initiative. Researchers from Ohio State University tracked nearly 81,000 postmenopausal women, age 50 to 79, for four years.

The women were divided into two groups-- those who took NSAIDs regularly (two or more times a week), and those who rarely or never took the drugs.

Their findings, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research, are intriguing.

Women who used NSAIDs for five to nine years cut their risk by 21 percent. Ten or more years use lowered the risk 28 percent.

The results suggest each year there were 15 fewer breast cancers for every 10,000 women using the over the counter medications.

And when they looked at specific types of drugs, the results were even more dramatic.

The big winner was ibuprofen. Regular use of 200 milligrams a week cut the risk of breast cancer 50 percent. Compare that to aspirin (325 milligrams per week) which lowered the risk 21 percent.

So how could these drugs have such a powerful effect? They block the gene that triggers inflammation. It's called Cox-2, and in many cancers, the Cox-2 gene gets turned on and stays on. They think NSAIDs may turn the gene off, and block the uncontrolled inflammation.

This protective effect held true even when they looked at different high risk groups. It didn't matter if there was a family history of breast cancer, how much someone exercised, their body mass index, or hormone use. These drugs taken regularly for years seemed to lower their risk of breast cancer.

But remember, these drugs aren't for everyone.. so check with your doctor.

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