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No Link Between Anti-Inflammatory Pain Medicines and Lower Risk in Younger Women

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Earlier research suggested that aspirin and other anti-inflammatory pain medicines could lower breast cancer risk. A very large research study found that young, premenopausal women who regularly took over-the-counter pain medicines DIDN'T have a lower risk of breast cancer compared to premenopausal women who didn't take pain medicines regularly.

The researchers looked at these pain relievers:

  • aspirin
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), a group of medicines that include:
    • ibuprofen (brand names include: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin)
    • naproxen (brand names include: Naprosyn, Naprolan)
    • naproxen sodium (brand names include: Aleve, Anaprox)
    • ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis)
    • indomethacin (brand name: Indocin)
    • piroxicam (brand name: Feldene)
    • nabumetone (brand name: Relafen)
  • acetaminophen (brand names include: Tylenol) -- unlike aspirin and NSAIDs, acetaminophen doesn't reduce inflammation

In the Nurses' Health Study, more than 110,000 female nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 were monitored for many health factors for 14 years, including medicines they used and their breast cancer risk. During the study, 1,395 women were diagnosed with breast cancer before menopause.

In the study reviewed here, researchers compared the breast cancer risk of women who regularly used one of the common pain relievers listed above to the risk of women who didn't use these medicines regularly. Regular use means a woman took one of the medicines 2 or more times per week. More than 46,000 women (about 40%) used one of these pain relievers regularly.

Women who regularly took aspirin, other NSAIDs, or acetaminophen had the same breast cancer risk as women who didn't use any of these medicines regularly.

Inflammation contributes to many diseases, including arthritis, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and cancer. So it makes sense that researchers wondered if anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin and other NSAIDs, could reduce breast cancer risk. Especially since there is evidence that regular use of these anti-inflammatory medicines can lower colon cancer risk.

Still, this study found breast cancer risk wasn't lower in women who regularly took aspirin or other NSAIDs. It's not as clear how acetaminophen, which doesn't reduce inflammation, might reduce breast cancer risk, but this study found that acetaminophen also didn't lower breast cancer risk.

But it's good to know that if you have to take aspirin, other NSAIDs, or acetaminophen regularly, you're not increasing your breast cancer risk.

Visit the Breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section to learn about choices you can make to keep your risk as low as it can be.

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