Does Aspirin Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?

Does Aspirin Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on February 28, 2013

The Truth About Aspirin

OK, so you have heard that “Taking an aspirin a day, keeps the doctor away.” No, actually, the saying is “Eating an apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” It is “Take an aspirin and call me in morning."

Either way, both food and aspirin have been promoted as ways to avoid having to seek healthcare. Apples are a peach of a food, and food is good for the soul and the body. Phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and macronutrients are all powerful determinants of health. This blog is about aspirin and breast cancer.

Aspirin (ASA) acetylsalicylic acid is the most commonly used drug worldwide and dates back to the BC days of Hippocrates where the 'father of modern medicine’ described the use of powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree to help aches, pains and headaches. Aspirin is a wonder drug and a potentially deadly drug. It has only been in very recent modern times that we have recognized the potentially deadly Reye’s syndrome in children under age 12 who were given aspirin due to a fever or suspected viral infection. So, while I was given baby aspirin as a baby and child, my children never received any aspirin, but did benefit greatly from another commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent (NSAIDS), ibuprofen (Motrin).

Does Aspirin Reduce The Risk of Breast Cancer?

Because ASA and NSAIDS are commonly used for so many conditions, some epidemiologic research has suggested less heart disease and less cancer in users of these agents. I recently reviewed a very large and long research study looking at the risk of breast cancer and the use of ASA, NSAIDS and acetaminophen (Tylenol). The study found no reduction in breast cancer rates in users of these agents. Take heart ladies. There are many proactive ways to reduce the risk of premature death and reduce the risk from being diagnosed with breast cancer. Those ways include:

  • Daily exercise
  • Avoiding midlife weight gain
  • Breastfeeding
  • No smoking
  • Minimize alcohol use (no more than 3-5 drinks per week and if you drink ingest daily folate!)
  • Eating a heart healthy diet (Mediterranean diet)
  • Avoid all transfats
  • Ingest enough vitamin D3 daily
  • If you have had a hysterectomy, strongly consider estrogen therapy which is associated with REDUCED risk of being diagnosed with or having invasive breast cancer.

If you are at an increased risk for breast cancer, see your physician for:

  • A Gail model risk assessment.
  • Consideration for chemoprevention with medications such as tamoxifen or raloxifene.
  • Genetic testing and more intensive screening.

So while a baby aspirin may be appropriate for certain older adults to reduce heart attack and stroke risk, it is not a valid breast cancer reduction agent. So the advice from this ‘mother of ultra-modern interdisciplinary women’s health’ is:

  • Go for a walk
  • Eat an apple
  • See your women’s health physician regularly
  • Check in with @SPKwomenshealth for the latest breaking women’s health news

Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be in Charge!

-Holly L. Thacker, MD FACP NCMP CCD

Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Her special interests are menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health. Dr. Thacker is the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause.

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