According to findings published in the journal Cancer Research, overweight or obese women who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The researchers analyzed data from 440 women, most of whom were overweight or obese and post-menopausal, with estrogen-driven breast cancer treated between 1987 and 2011. They found that approximately 6% of women who said they took NSAIDs regularly experienced a relapse of their breast cancer compared with 12% of women who did not take NSAIDs regularly.
Senior researcher Linda deGraffenried, PhD, of The University of Texas in Austin, Texas was surprised that they found such a dramatic result. In addition, cancers that recurred in women who regularly took NSAIDs reappeared later than those did not report regular NSAID use.
The researchers wanted to find an explanation for the association, and so by utilizing lab experiments and blood samples from overweight women, they found that by reducing inflammation, NSAIDs make the environment of their bodies more similar to a woman of normal body weight. This change makes their cancer more susceptible to treatment.
Further studies must be conducted before NSAIDs are recommended for all obese women with estrogen-driven breast cancer. NSAIDs carry increased cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and renal risks.
In overweight women, aspirin or other drugs that reduce inflammation might make certain breast cancers more treatable, researchers suggest.
Hormone-driven breast cancer was less likely to return in overweight women who regularly used anti-inflammatory medicines, they found. But their findings don’t prove the drugs prevent cancer and it’s too soon to tell women to start taking them to protect against cancer recurrence, the researchers warn.
Still, senior researcher Linda deGraffenried of The University of Texas in Austin told Reuters Health said, “I was probably as surprised as anyone that we found such a dramatic effect that we did.”
She and her colleagues write in the journal Cancer Research that in past studies, breast cancer outcomes tended to be worse in obese women than in thinner women.