Cheap pills such as ibuprofen and naproxen could cut down the risks of breast cancer by 40% in women

The research team, however, warns that the study is not a clinical trial and they do not recommend these medications to all women


                            Cheap pills such as ibuprofen and naproxen could cut down the risks of breast cancer by 40% in women
These anti-inflammatory drugs offer protection to women who have had unusual growths or other changes in the breast tissue. (Getty Images)

Taking inexpensive pills such as ibuprofen and naproxen could benefit women who are already at risk of developing breast cancer. These drugs may cut down breast cancer risks by 40%, a new study suggests.

These anti-inflammatory drugs offer protection to women who have had unusual growths or other changes in the breast tissue that are not cancer — called a benign breast biopsy, says the study. 

The research team, however, warns that the study is not a clinical trial and they do not recommend these medications to all women.

"Several studies have evaluated whether the use of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen affect a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, but little is known about how the use of these drugs might affect their risk after a benign breast biopsy," says Dr Amy Degnim, a breast surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Accordingly, the research team included women who had undergone a benign breast biopsy at the Mayo Clinic between 1992 and 2001 in this study. The team followed these women, as they made a survey of the medications these women used. They also made a record of the number of women who went on to develop breast cancer at any point in the years after their initial benign biopsy.

We found that women who reported using ibuprofen or naproxen had an approximately 40% reduction in breast cancer risk, while women who reported using aspirin had no reduction in breast cancer risk, say experts. (Getty Images)

From their observations, the team saw that women taking ibuprofen and naproxen seemed to offer some sort of protection against breast cancer. "We found that women who reported using ibuprofen or naproxen had an approximately 40% reduction in breast cancer risk, while women who reported using aspirin had no reduction in breast cancer risk," says Dr Degnim. "Women who used the drugs more frequently on a regular basis also had greater protection from breast cancer," adds Dr Degnim.

The study contradicts previous studies that suggested that using aspirin may extend the lifespan of women diagnosed with breast cancer. But it does make the case for these drugs, as previous studies have shown that they may help after surgery as well. Cancer patients who took anti-inflammatory medications for pain after surgery had fivefold lower rates of cancer relapse than patients taking opioids, according to a 2012 study. Even rats showed a similar response. 

The Mayo clinic study could pay the way for clinical trials. These trials can clearly establish whether these medications can cut down breast cancer risks. "Our results support the need for a clinical trial to further investigate the risks and benefits of taking these medications to lower breast cancer risk," says Dr Degnim.

Mayo Clinic researchers presented these findings at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium held between December 10 and 14 in San Antonio, Texas.

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