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Cancer Health Center

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These May Cut Risk of Breast Cancer Return in Obese

Experts think anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin might help cancer treatments work better

continued...

Also, painkillers have side effects, she added, such as a risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.

If future research bears out the latest findings, deGraffenried said, giving women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer a daily NSAID may reduce or delay the return of the breast cancer, and possibly spare them from needing additional treatments.

The concept makes sense, said Leslie Bernstein, director of the division of cancer etiology at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. Bernstein is a longtime breast cancer researcher.

"We think of obesity as an inflammatory condition, and women who are obese have a higher risk of recurrence," she said. (In her own research, she has found that higher risk occurs in white, but not black, women.) It does make sense, she said, that aspirin would reduce inflammation and thus the risk of recurrence.

However, the study has some limitations, Bernstein noted. It relies on chart reviews, for instance, not direct interviews with the women. It would also have been valuable to look at aspirin alone, she added, rather than a variety of NSAIDs.

Bernstein agreed more work should be done, including clinical trials to focus on aspirin. If the research continues to bear out, she said, a recommendation to take a daily aspirin might help reduce recurrence of breast cancer.

This preventive measure might be adhered to better than other advice to minimize breast cancer risk, such as increasing physical activity, Bernstein added.

"You can't get all women to exercise," she said, "but you can get them to take an aspirin every day."

The study is published in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Program of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

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