Aspirin May Cut Enlarged Prostate Risk

An enlarged prostate is almost a rite of passage for men as they age, but a daily aspirin may cut the risk of this common problem.

Men who reported daily use of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, were 25 percent less likely to develop moderate to severe enlarged prostate symptoms.

The findings suggest that anti-inflammatory drugs may prevent or delay development of an enlarged prostate, according to researcher Jennifer St. Sauver, PhD, and colleagues.

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Two Birds With One Aspirin

Doctors aren’t advising men to start taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs for prostate health.

“We would not recommend that every man go out and take aspirin,” St. Sauver says, in a Mayo Clinic news release.

“But if they are already taking it regularly for other reasons, our findings suggest another benefit as well,” she adds.

Besides easing pain, aspirin is often taken to cut heart and stroke risk. But aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs come with their own risks, including stomach irritation, bleeding, and ulcers.

Although the exact risk is unclear, long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs other than aspirin has been linked to an increase in heart attack and stroke risk. Prescription anti-inflammatory drugs now carry a warning about that risk.

Patients should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs.

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Common Condition

Enlarged prostate is the most common prostate problem. As men age, they’re more likely to develop the condition, which is known by doctors as BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Many men with an enlarged prostate have no symptoms. Symptoms that may develop include difficulty starting a urine stream, weak urine flow, the urge to urinate frequently, and possibly pain during urination.

Michael Lieber, MD, a Mayo Clinic urologist who worked on the study, describes the problem.

“The typical scenario with benign prostatic hyperplasia is that men start getting up three to five times a night to urinate, and their wives ultimately force them to go see a urologist,” Lieber says, in the Mayo Clinic news release.

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Inflammation Key?

Doctors don’t know exactly how BPH develops, but inflammation may be part of the process. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are often used to treat arthritis inflammation. Their anti-inflammatory effect may also help an enlarged prostate.

Daily aspirin, which is also an anti-inflammatory drug, is commonly used to help decrease the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

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Enlarged Prostate Study

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, comes from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

St. Sauver and colleagues studied 2,447 Minnesota men aged 40-79 for 12 years.

Their study was purely observational. That is, the researchers checked the men’s medical records and drug use. But they didn’t ask the men to take aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Every two years, the men completed surveys about their daily use of anti-inflammatory drugs and other prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

At the study’s start, a third of the men reported taking anti-inflammatory drugs daily. Eighty percent of those men reported taking daily aspirin.

The researchers also checked the men’s medical records and screened 634 participants for BPH every other year.

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Study’s Results

Men who reported taking anti-inflammatory drugs daily at the study’s start were about 25 percent less likely to develop moderate to severe BPH symptoms.

This held true even after accounting for age, which also increases BPH.

The results were generally stronger for aspirin than other anti-inflammatory drugs, the researchers note. They call for more studies to check their findings.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: St. Sauver, J. American Journal of Epidemiology, Aug. 11, 2006; Advance Access online edition. News release, Mayo Clinic. WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: “Prostate Cancer: Enlarged Prostate.” WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: “Treating Heart Disease With Aspirin Therapy.” WebMD Medical News: “Bextra Taken Off Market; Celebrex Gets Warning.”