NSAIDs May Lower Prostate Cancer Markers
Study Shows Ibuprofen and Other NSAIDs Reduce PSA Levels
Sept. 8, 2008 -- Regular use of aspirin, ibuprofen, and other anti-inflammatory pain relievers appears to lower blood levels of the prostate cancer biomarker prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
In a newly reported study, men who used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) almost every day had average PSA levels that were lower than men who didn't use the pain relievers.
The study is among the first to link NSAID use to lower PSA levels, but the clinical significance of the findings is not clear, researchers say.
The findings may mean that regular NSAID use helps protect against prostate cancer. Or NSAIDs may offer no protection at all, and may simply reduce the sensitivity of PSA as a screening tool for prostate cancer.
"All we can say from this study is that taking these medications regularly resulted in lower PSA values," urologist and study researcher Eric A. Singer, MD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center tells WebMD.
NSAIDS, PSA, and Prostate Cancer
Chronic inflammation is increasingly suspected of playing a role in several cancers, including those of the colon, bladder, and stomach.
There is also some evidence that inflammation plays a role in prostate cancer and that regular NSAID use may help protect against the cancer. But these studies are not conclusive, study co-author Edwin van Wijingaarden, PhD, tells WebMD.
"Several studies have reported a small benefit for NSAID use on prostate cancer, but there is very little information on its impact on PSA, which is the main screening tool for prostate cancer," he says.
In an effort to better understand the impact of NSAID use on PSA levels, the researchers analyzed data collected by the CDC in 2001 and 2002 as part of a nationwide health and nutrition survey. Information about dosage and reason for taking NSAIDs or acetaminophen were not available for analysis.
PSA levels and information on NSAID and acetaminophen use were available for 1,319 men included in the analysis. All the men were 40 or older, but most (72%) were not yet 60.
Men who reported using NSAIDs nearly every day had PSA levels that were about 10% lower than men who reported no current NSAID use.
The study is published in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Cancer.
Study 'Raises Many Questions'
More study is needed to confirm the findings and to determine if regular NSAID use really does lower prostate cancer risk, the researchers conclude.
"This study raises many questions, but it is far too early to recommend aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs to lower prostate cancer risk," says Singer.
Len Lichtenfeld, MD, who is deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, agrees.
"NSAIDs are powerful drugs, so we would never recommend them unless the benefits clearly outweighed the risks," he tells WebMD.
Most of the men in the study were younger than 60, and most prostate cancers occur in older men.
"This is an intriguing study, but the association clearly needs to be looked at in larger populations of men and in older populations," Lichtenfeld says.