Regular aspirin use may lower risk for liver, ovarian cancers

Henrietta Strickland
October 6, 2018

The study, co-led by the Moffitt Cancer Centre, found that women who reported taking a low-dose aspirin every day had a 23 per cent lower risk of ovarian cancer compared to nonaspirin users.

The second study, led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), analysed data from more than 133,300 participants, finding that regular aspirin use may reduce the risk of developing primary liver cancer - also called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - which is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide.

Both sets of hazard ratios reflected multivariable adjustment that included such factors as age, menopausal status, parity, and family history of cancer. Dr. Victoria L. Seewaldt, of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Calfironia, wrote in an editorial published in JAMA Oncology with the two studies.

Senior study author Dr. Andrew Chan pointed out that "aspirin use is already recommended for prevention of heart disease and colorectal cancer in certain US adults".

Eric J. Jacobs, a cancer epidemiologist and strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology at the American Cancer Society, said, "At best, the overall evidence suggests that aspirin only slightly lowers risk of ovarian cancer".

"The potential benefits of aspirin must be weighed against the risk of bleeding, particularly in individuals with chronic liver disease", said Seewaldt.

"What really differentiated this study from prior work was that we were able to analyze low-dose aspirin separately from standard dose aspirin", said Mollie Barnard, a postdoctoral fellow at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, who led this research.

"The results are slightly puzzling in relation to aspirin, with low doses showing a decreased risk and higher doses showing an increased risk", said Evans, who did not participate in the research. But the low-dose aspirin benefit was seen when they separated out the aspirin dosing (≤100 mg versus standard 325 mg).

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in females in the United Kingdom, with around 7,400 new cases every year. The self-reports gave details of timing, pattern, frequency, and duration of use, including numbers of tablets taken. They noted "the association between other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and ovarian cancer may be more complex". Risk of liver cancer was 59 percent lower among those who took aspirin regularly for five years or more. Conversely, the data showed that women who took non-aspirin NSAIDs often, defined by at least 10 tablets per week for many years, had an increased risk of developing the disease.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the US, and growing evidence suggests a role for inflammation in the development of the disease, the authors write. "Further exploration is warranted to evaluate the mechanisms by which heavy use of aspirin, nonaspirin NSAIDs, and acetaminophen may contribute to the development of ovarian cancer and to replicate our findings".

And in the past two decades, aspirin has increasingly been looked at to help prevent cancer.

The findings support results from previous studies, the researchers said. Both prospective studies were conducted in the U.S.

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