Anti-inflammatories may offer help against breast cancer risk

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Women who used ibuprofen or naproxen after a benign breast biopsy reduced their cancer risk, research shows.

Research from Mayo Clinic investigators presented at the 2019 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium suggests that some women with an elevated risk of developing breast cancer may benefit from taking anti-inflammatory medications.

Photo of Amy C. Degnim, M.D.
Amy C. Degnim, M.D.

"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," said Amy C. Degnim, M.D., a breast surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "But little is known about how use of these drugs might affect their risk after a benign breast biopsy."

About 1 million women receive a diagnosis of benign breast disease annually in the U.S., and having this history increases their risk of developing breast cancer, Dr. Degnim said.

Dr. Degnim and her colleagues surveyed women who had undergone a benign breast biopsy at Mayo Clinic between 1992 and 2001 and asked them to report which types of anti-inflammatory medications they had used and for how long. The researchers also obtained information about which women had developed 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," Dr. Degnim said. "Women who used the drugs more frequently on a regular basis also had greater protection from breast cancer."

The findings suggest that women who have had a benign breast biopsy may benefit from medications that reduce inflammation, except for aspirin, in terms of reducing later breast cancer risk, Dr. Degnim said. She cautioned that this study was not a clinical trial and that she does not recommend that all women take these medications to reduce their breast cancer risk. "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," she said.


This article was originally published in Forefront, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center's online magazine, which ceased publication in December 2020.