Aspirin is a commonly-used OTC drug to treat mild fever and headache, and sometimes even to prevent heart attacks in individuals who previously suffered one. A new study from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, published in JNCI: Journal of the Cancer Institute, revealed that even using low dosages of aspirin regularly may help with ovarian cancer.
How was the study conducted?
The study accompanied more than 900 women in Australia who were recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. All participants were then asked to record their usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin.
Azam Majidi, Ph.D., the study's lead researcher, reported that those who took NSAIDs at least four days a week for 12 months following their diagnosis had a longer life span than those who didn’t take NSAIDs. Women who took NSAIDs mostly took low-dosage aspirin daily.
"Our findings suggest that frequent NSAID use might improve survival for women with ovarian cancer, regardless of whether they start taking the drugs before or after diagnosis," said Majidi.
Ovarian cancer is often difficult to diagnose in earlier stages, and approximately 80 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer get re-diagnosed after treatment. The new research, however, indicates that women who regularly took NSAIDs also had a delayed reoccurrence.
While researchers proceed to look for suitable ovarian cancer treatments, Majidi said these findings provide hope that low-dose aspirin might support ovarian cancer survival across the world. She emphasized, though, that aspirin isn't suitable for everyone, thus women shouldn't start taking it without talking to their doctor first.
"We found the difference would translate to an average of an extra 2.5 months' survival in the five years post-diagnosis. While this might not sound like a lot, it is significant for ovarian cancer. The disease is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when the prognosis is poor, and treatment options are limited."
What is ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer is cancer formed in the ovaries, seizing body tissues. It typically necessitates surgery and chemotherapy, and it usually doesn’t cause many symptoms in the beginning stages. Some symptoms include abdominal swelling, weight loss, fatigue, and back pain when they occur.
In the U.S., approximately 19,710 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2023. For women, it ranks fifth in cancer deaths and has the highest death rate compared to other female reproductive system cancer. Ovarian cancer is primarily diagnosed in older women, as approximately 50 percent of those diagnosed are 63 years or older.
Majidi concluded: "One of the exciting things about these results is that low-dose aspirin is affordable and relatively safe for use at a population-wide level. While more targeted and advanced treatments show great promise, at the moment they are very expensive and not accessible to everyone—especially in poorer countries. More research including clinical trials is needed to confirm whether these drugs can improve survival for women affected by this terrible disease."
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