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Aspirin and breast cancer: Daily use cuts recurrence, helps survival

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A 50 percent higher survival rate. That is an amazing number.

We already know that taking aspirin daily – even a baby aspirin – helps prevent heart disease and stroke. Now, a study of more than 4,000 women with breast cancer shows that aspirin may help them increase survival and reduce the risk of recurrence.

The research, which appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, followed 4,164 female nurses in the Nurses Health Study who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Those who took aspirin were 50 percent less likely to have their cancer spread and 50 percent less likely to die from it.

"This is the first study to find that aspirin can significantly reduce the risk of cancer spread and death for women who have been treated for early stage breast cancer, " said lead researcher Dr. Michelle Holmes, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health in Boston.

"If these findings are confirmed in other clinical trials, taking aspirin may become another simple, low-cost and relatively safe tool to help women with breast cancer live longer, healthier lives," Holmes added in a statement published in a Reuters news story.

Those are fabulous numbers. But there is a small caution. The nurses who took the aspirin were taking it on their own, usually to help against heart disease. So the ways they took it and reported it are individual and weren’t done as part of the research itself. In other words, it wasn’t a controlled situation.

"This is a very interesting and exciting study that suggests aspirin may reduce the recurrence of breast cancer," said Dr. Richard Besser, senior health and medical editor for ABC News. "However, the design of the study does not allow for definitive conclusions. Hopefully, there will be randomized trials of aspirin use to answer this question."

The 50 percent reduction is the overall finding when comparing to users to nonusers, said lead researcher Dr. Michelle Holmes, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health in Boston, in a HealthDay News story.

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Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Diane - This is incredible information, thanks for letting us know. I've taken aspirin daily for years, and this is more encouragement to continue the practice. Pat

February 18, 2010 - 5:06pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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