Analgesic drugs don’t reduce ovarian cancer risk

The regular use of over-the-counter analgesic drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, does not appear to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, according to findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

It has been suggested that inflammation may be involved in the development of ovarian cancer, “possibly acting in concert with ovulation,” Dr. Mary Anne Rossing, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and colleagues write. Drugs with anti-inflammatory effects, such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), have been suggested as possible treatment to prevent the development of ovarian cancer.

In a population-based study, the researchers evaluated the analgesic use in 812 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and in 1313 “control” subjects who acted as a comparison group. In-person interviews were used to assess analgesic use, excluding use within the previous year.

A total of 1007 women (47 percent) reported previous use of acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDs on 5 or more days per month for at least 6 consecutive months.

In contrast, an association was observed between acetaminophen and aspirin and a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer. The increased risk was found mainly in women who had used the drugs for more than 10 years, with an increased risk of 80 percent for acetaminophen and 60 percent for aspirin.

However, among women who used aspirin, those who began regular use within the previous 5 years had a reduced risk of ovarian cancer of about 40 percent, as did those who took aspirin for heart disease prevention at about 30 percent.

“These results, in the context of prior findings, do not provide compelling evidence of a true increase in risk of ovarian cancer among women who use these drugs,” Rossing and colleagues conclude. “However, they add to the weight of evidence that, in the aggregate, provides little support for the use of analgesic drugs as chemoprevention for this disease.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, June 15, 2008.

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