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Painkillers 'protect against breast cancer'

By Nigel Praities

Women taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin have a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer, says an analysis of 38 studies by Spanish researchers.

Their meta-analysis of data from nearly 3 million patients shows that NSAID use as associated with a 22% reduction in the risk of breast cancer, compared to those who did not regularly take the drugs.

Specific analyses for aspirin showed the drug reduced the risk of breast cancer by 13%, compared with 3% reduction with ibuprofen.

The authors said this analysis should prompt further research into the protective effect seen in women who regularly take NSAIDs.

Previous studies looking at this association have been inconsistent, but one UK study showed a 20% risk reduction in the risk of breast cancer last year and suggested aspirin could be used as a way of inhibiting the growth of tumours in women with established breast cancer.

Dr Una Macleod, a GP in Glasgow and a cancer research campaign research fellow in primary care oncology at Glasgow University, said the study was interesting but the evidence would have to be strong to recommend NSAID treatment in healthy people.

‘These drugs are not without side-effects. There is a lot of aspirin use elsewhere, to prevent heart attacks and strokes for instance, but that is for secondary prevention and the evidence for it is pretty good,‘ she said.

The study is published early online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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