Can Aspirin Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

It's old news that daily aspirin might be good for your aging heart. Maybe your father especially has had that bottle of baby aspirin in his medicine cabinet for as long as you can remember. But aspirin (a.k.a. acetylsalicylic acid) may be hiding medical powers that lie well beyond the cardiovascular system. New research points to one very interesting use for that routine dose — daily aspirin may help to prevent breast cancer.

According to a study coming out of the Cancer Research Unit at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, aspirin pretty seriously curtails the ability for breast cancer to grow. Dr. Sushanta Banerjee and her team grew 100 dishes full of breast cancer cells, and then added aspirin. The aspirin either killed the cancer cells, or kept them from growing any further.

Since petri dish experiments sometimes don't generalize to actual living organisms, the team tried a round of mouse experiments too. In mice that had grown breast cancer, just 15 days of moderate-dose aspirin administration shrank the tumors by 47 percent. And mice who were treated with aspirin continuously before being exposed to breast cancer cells experienced less cancer growth than a control group who did not take aspirin. As the lead researcher reports, "Basically, [the breast cancer cells] couldn't grow or reproduce" in the presence of aspirin.

There is emerging reason to believe that aspirin might prevent skin cancer and colon cancer too. So should you start taking daily aspirin now? As usual, it's best to discuss these things with your doctor first. There is some risk of side effects, like internal bleeding, from prolonged aspirin usage, but it's likely a safe move, with the benefits far outweighing the risks.

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