Magazine article Science News

Aspirin Use Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

Magazine article Science News

Aspirin Use Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

Article excerpt

In a finding that runs counter to prevailing wisdom, scientists have associated aspirin use with cancer of the pancreas.

Since past studies linked chronic inflammation to various malignancies, the researchers had expected the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin to suppress pancreatic cancer. Indeed, a smaller study in 2002 found that people taking aspirin had less pancreatic cancer than people not taking aspirin did.

Finding the opposite was "quite a surprise" says Eva S. Schernhammer, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who coauthored the new study. It appears in the Jan. 7 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Pancreatic cancer is uncommon but rapidly fatal, mainly because the early stages of the malignancy often go undetected and the pancreas is difficult to examine and treat.

Schernhammer and her colleagues analyzed health information on 88,378 female nurses that was amassed between 1980 and 1998. All the nurses were free of cancer at the start of that period, but 161 subsequently developed pancreatic cancer. Every 2 years during the study, the nurses completed questionnaires on their aspirin use and other health factors.

The data revealed that women who reported in two of three consecutive questionnaires that they were taking more than 14 aspirin tablets a week were nearly twice as likely to get pancreatic cancer as were their counterparts who didn't use aspirin. Women who said they took four to six tablets a week were 29 percent more likely to develop cancer than were women taking no aspirin. …

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