According to a recent article published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the use of aspirin-containing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may lower the incidence of pancreatic cancer in women.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of all cancers and accounts for approximately 2% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States each year, but 5% of all cancer deaths. Pancreatic cancer is often called a silent killer because it usually does not cause any recognizable symptoms until it is advanced and has spread outside the pancreas. As a result, the majority of pancreatic cancers are not diagnosed until they have reached advanced stages and are considered incurable.
One important goal of cancer research is to identify environmental risk factors for different types of cancer. Some factors such as diet, exercise, pollution and stress have been associated with a higher incidence of some types of cancer. Conversely, other factors have been associated with a lower incidence of some types of cancer with high exposure to one or more of them. Researchers continue to evaluate environmental factors that can either increase or reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer so that better strategies for prevention and/or screening can be produced and implemented.
The use of NSAIDs have been associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer and is being investigated in associations with incidences of other cancer as well. Researchers from the University of Minnesota recently conducted a study in which they evaluated the incidence of pancreatic cancer in women who used NSDAIDs. In this study, researchers evaluated NSAID use in 28,283 postmenopausal women from 1992 to 1999. Overall, there were 80 cases of pancreatic cancer in this group of women. In the group of women who regularly took aspirin, the incidence of pancreatic cancer was reduced by 40%, with some indication that more frequent use resulted in more of a reduced risk of developing pancreatic cancer. There was no effect on the incidence of pancreatic cancer from the use of non-aspirin containing NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, Advil™, Nuprin™, Motrin™, Naprosyn™, Feldene™ and Clinoril™.
These researchers concluded that if these results can be reproduced in future studies, the implications may have significant importance since pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers. Patients who are at a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer may wish to speak with their physician about the results of this trial and the risks and benefits of taking aspirin-containing compounds or the participation in a clinical study further evaluating preventive measures for the disease.
Reference: Anderson K, Johnson T, Lazovich D, et al. Association between nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use and the incidence of pancreatic cancer.
Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2002;94:1168-1171.