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Aspirin may help overweight breast cancer patients, study says

aspirin bottle

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been shown to significantly lower breast cancer recurrence rates and extend patients’ disease-free period, according to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

In new findings published in Cancer Research, researchers examined the medical records of 440 breast cancer patients, comparing those who took NSAIDs— which include aspirin and ibupfrofen— to those who did not. They then studied how breast cancer cells behave in the body.

Their preliminary findings showed that, for postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese and are receiving hormone therapy as part of their treatment, use of NSAIDs reduced the recurrence rate of the most common form of breast cancer by 50 percent and extended cancer recurrence by more than two years. Studies are being conducted to confirm these initial results.

“Overweight or obese women diagnosed with breast cancer are facing a worse prognosis than normal-weight women,” said researcher Linda deGraffenried of The University of Texas at Austin. “We believe that obese women are facing a different disease. There are changes at the molecular level. We seek to modulate the disease promoting effects of obesity.”

Scientists do not completely understand why obese women have more aggressive forms of breast cancer, or why they’re less responsive to treatment, but the study suggests that inflammation plays a pivotal role. Researchers also found that inflammation may negatively affect the effectiveness of a class of cancer drugs, aromatase inhibitors, that are commonly prescribed to prevent cancer recurrence.

Overweight or obese postmenopausal women— those at greater risk for breast cancer development— may benefit from taking a low-dose aspirin daily.

“What this study does is present great promise that a fairly inexpensive and nontoxic agent might benefit obese and overweight breast cancer patients who are at a higher risk of aromatase inhibitor failure — but further studies are needed to confirm these results,” said researcher Laura Bowers of the University of Texas at Austin.

A larger prospective study is being planned to identify disease biomarkers and monitor patients’ response to NSAIDs in addition to breast cancer treatment.