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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

Tylenol May Cut Ovarian Cancer Risk

Study Ties Regular Acetaminophen Use to Lower Rate of Ovarian Cancer
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 7, 2006 -- Women who regularly use acetaminophen -- the active ingredient in Tylenol and several other painkillers -- may be 30% less likely to develop ovarian cancerovarian cancer than those who use the drug rarely or not at all.

That's what Stefanos Bonovas, MD, MSc, and colleagues report in July's issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Bonovas works in Greece at the pharmacology department of the University of Athens' medical school.

But the Greek researchers aren't advising women to start taking acetaminophen to prevent ovarian cancercancer. The possible link between acetaminophen use and reduced ovarian cancer risk "cannot yet be regarded as one which would prompt a public health recommendation," write Bonovas and colleagues.

They caution that the new findings need to be confirmed and much more information should be gathered first.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the most fatal gynecological cancer, largely because doctors don't have a good screening method to detect the disease in its early, more treatable, stages, Bonovas' team notes.

The American Cancer Society reports the following statistics for ovarian cancer in the U.S.:

  • 8th most common cancer in women (excluding skin cancerskin cancer)
  • 5th cause of cancer deaths in women
  • 20,000 new cases expected in 2006
  • 15,000 deaths expected in 2006
  • Most patients aged 55 or older
  • Slightly more common in white women than in black
  • 1 in 67 lifetime risk of a woman getting ovarian cancer

Research Review

Bonovas and colleagues decided to do an in-depth look at a possible link between reduced ovarian cancerovarian cancer risk and acetaminophen use after hearing mixed results from observational studies.

They collected eight studies on the topic for analysis. All were done between 1998 and 2004. Six were from the U.S., one came from the U.K., and another was from Denmark.

The studies varied widely in size, ranging from 10 ovarian cancercancer patients to more than 1,500. For comparison, Bonovas' team also included much bigger groups of women without ovarian cancer.

The studies' methods also differed. Four tracked acetaminophen use by questionnaire. Two relied on interviews. The last two studies gathered information from drug databases. Questionnaires and interviews aren't always accurate, note Bonovas and colleagues.

None of the studies directly tested acetaminophen to prevent ovarian cancer, meaning they were observational -- not experiments in which some women were asked to take acetaminophen and a control group was given a placebo.

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