Aspirin worth the Risk in Preventing Ovarian Cancer?


There have been previous studies stating that aspirin may reduce the risk of heart attack, melanoma and breast cancer, but just recently, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has confirmed that it may aid in lowering the risk of ovarian cancer as well. The study, co-conducted by Dr.Britton Trabert from NCI’s cancer epidemiology and genetics division, stated that Aspirin can aid in preventing the development ovarian cancer by 20 percent when taken daily. While this may be a breakthrough, doctors caution that it does not necessarily mean that every woman should begin ingesting aspirin daily. The study also found that the consumption of aspirin on an every day basis has been shown to cause severe side effects, which has been raising the question as to whether or not it is worth the overall risk in preventing ovarian cancer.

Many doctors agree that detecting ovarian cancer in its early stages is key to the treatment’s success, but as the symptoms are common for many other conditions, they are often ignored. It is predicted that over 14,000 women in the U.S. will die from ovarian cancer this year alone. Knowing the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer can help women be a better judge of when they should speak with their doctor, and would thus prevent more deaths. With recent findings, it might seem ideal to take aspirin in hopes of preventing ovarian cancer, but many people are unaware of the risks. As Dr. Christopher Cannon, Professor at Harvard Medical School and cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital states: “everyone assumes aspirin is harmless, but it isn’t.” He argues that for some, the risks outweigh the benefits and may not be worth it.

The risk of developing ovarian cancer can increase when a person suffers from chronic inflammation. Aspirin, being an anti-inflammatory, may not be the only pill of its kind to prevent early cancer development. This is fortunate, because the study found that some people suffered from severe side effects such as hemorrhage stroke, inflammation, and upper gastrointestinal bleeding when taking aspirin daily. These are serious side effects and can lead to long-term health problems, or in extremely severe cases, death.

With long-term and repeated use, the risk of stroke was found to increase by 16 percent. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is decreased, resulting in loss of brain function. Strokes are responsible for 130,000 deaths in America every year and are also a leading cause for serious long-term disability, as 75 percent of stroke survivors become disabled enough to decrease their employability.

The second side effect, inflammation, has been linked to diabetes and depression and has also been shown to assist tumour growth. Lastly, gastrointestinal bleeding occurs when aspirin inhibits the function of helpful substances that can protect the stomach’s lining which can lead to upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding is responsible for 300,000 hospital visits as well as 30,000 deaths per year in America. Dr. Cannon believes that aspirin can be the right drug for some, but not all, as the risk of ovarian cancer might not be worth the risk, but it depends on how the drug affects the person taking it.

One point made by researchers is that when consuming aspirin every day, it exceeds the daily recommended intake of sodium, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and kidney disease. Many nutritionists have found that a large portion of the population already ingest too much sodium from the foods they eat and taking aspirin every day would only increase their chances of developing high blood pressure and kidney disease. It is because of these risks that the NCI has not released a public statement recommending women to take aspirin as preventative measures against ovarian cancer. As Britton Trabert, researcher at NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology states: “Additional studies are needed to explore the delicate balance of risk-benefit for this potential chemopreventive agent.”

The study states that aspirin has to be taken daily in order to prevent ovarian cancer by 20 percent. If it is taken once a week, it only prevents ovarian cancer by 10 percent, which is the same amount as the other NSAIDS used in their research. Considering the side effects some doctors are warning to take the recent findings with some scepticism. They are also encouraging the public to consult their doctors if they are considering ingesting it to prevent ovarian cancer as it may not be worth the risk for some.

By Lian Morrison


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Harvard Health Publications
Medical Daily
Medical News Today

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