Aspirin May Reduce Risk Of Aggressive Ovarian Cancer
October 10, 2012

Aspirin May Reduce The Risk Of Aggressive Ovarian Cancer Says Danish Study

Alan McStravick for - Your Universe Online

Aspirin has been getting a lot of press lately. Its virtues have been extolled in its defense against prostate cancer in men and cognitive health decline in the elderly. As a blood thinner, its risk has been largely offset by its potential benefit for heart health. More recently, a Danish study has indicated that aspirin may actually decrease the risk of aggressive forms of ovarian cancer.

Dating back to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, a pain relieving compound derived from what we now know to be the primary ingredient in aspirin, salicin, was created by making a powder from the leaves and bark of the willow tree.

Modern aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is a mild, non-narcotic analgesic that is used to relieve headaches as well as muscle and joint aches. Aspirin works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, chemicals that are necessary for blood clotting and sensitizing nerve endings to pain.

The current study, published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology (NFOG), shows that women who regularly use pain relief medications — aspirin in particular — experience a decreased risk of developing serous ovarian cancer. Serous ovarian cancer is an aggressive carcinoma that affects the surface of the ovary.

The study also shows that the use of other non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), paracetamol (acetaminophen) or other analgesics did not have the same benefits  in decreasing the risk of ovarian cancer.

As the fifth-leading cause of death by cancer for women in developed countries, ovarian cancer is also the deadliest gynecological malignancy. Each year in the United States, some 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Upwards of 90 per cent of those diagnoses occur in women 40 years of age or older with the greatest instances occurring in women over 60 years of age.

"Ovarian cancer has a high mortality. Understanding what factors are involved in the development of this disease and investigating preventative interventions for women are vitally important," said lead author Dr. Susanne Kjær from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center.

"Our study examined the role of analgesics in the development of ovarian cancer."

The study utilized data collected between 1995 and 1999 for the malignant ovarian cancer (MALOVA) study. MALOVA was a population-based, case-control study investigating the prevalence of ovarian cancer in Danish women. Dr. Kjær´s team analyzed the data collected from 756 women with epithelial ovarian cancer, classified by the type of glandular tumors (adenocarcinomas). Of the 756 cases, 447 were serous, 138 were mucinous and 171 were classified as other types of the cancer. There was also a random sampling of 1,564 women between the ages of 35 and 79. Analgesic drug use was determined through personal interviews with the patients.

Dr. Kjær concludes: "Our findings suggest a potential protective effect of analgesic use on ovarian cancer risk, but that benefit should be balanced against adverse effects of pain medication use, such as risk of bleeding and peptic ulcers."

The authors recommend that larger studies are necessary to understand the impact of analgesic use on ovarian cancer. They say that these studies should focus on accurately assessing dosage, frequency and duration of pain medications use.

In an editorial also published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, Dr. Magnus Westgren of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden discussed preventive procedures such as bilateral salingectomy (BSE) for women who are at a higher risk for ovarian cancer. BSE is the removal of the fallopian tubes.

"If we informed women about the possibility of performing BSE at repeat cesarean section for ovarian cancer prevention, it is likely that many women would opt for this procedure," writes Dr. Westgren. He suggests that gynecology professionals discuss changing policies and setting up randomized trials to further understand how BSE could reduce ovarian cancer risk.

With the amount of information available about the benefits and risks of regular aspirin use, it is important to take a proactive role in researching potential health decisions.