According to results presented at the second annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, prolonged use of aspirin significantly increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in women.
1 These results dispute findings published in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2002.
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 is the fourth leading cause of 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 has been associated with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer and is being investigated in associations with incidences of other cancer as well. Recently, researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University Medical School evaluated long-term data among over 88,000 women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study. The study began in 1976, during which time all participants were cancer free. At 18 years of follow-up, pancreatic cancer occurred in 161 women. Aspirin use was evaluated every 6 months, beginning in 1980. Overall, long-term (20 years or more) aspirin use of 2 or more tablets per week was associated with a 58% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Compared to women who were not consistent aspirin users, those who took more than 14 per week on 2 of 3 consecutive biennial (every 2 years) questionnaires had an 86% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This risk was reduced with lower aspirin consumption when compared to women who did not consume aspirin: 41% increase of pancreatic cancer in women who took 6 – 13 aspirin per week; 29% for those who took 4-6 per week; and 11% for those who took 1-3 per week.
The researchers concluded that chronic use of aspirin may significantly increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer in women. However, these results pose opposition to results published in 2002 in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, indicating that aspirin use may actually reduce the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Therefore, it is important that women speak with their physician about their individual risks and benefits of taking aspirin.
1.Schernhammer E, et al. Proceedings from the American Association for Cancer Research second annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. 2003. Phoenix, AZ.
- 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.