nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aspirin Reduces Breast Cancer Recurrence

This study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology is getting a lot of press.  The link is the original report, which--unlike some studies--is decipherable, but data-rich.  If you want to read a Popular Press version of what the study showed, go here.  Like most news accounts, you have to accept the writer's view of what's important and what gets included...and some implications get left out because they aren't "newsy."

The data analysis looks pretty good, and the relative risk comparison is fairly straightforward.  There were over 4K women in the study.  They were followed from as far back as 1976, and for as short a time as from 2002, to 2006.  That's OK, although it would be better if all study participants had been followed for 10 or more years.  NOTE:  these were women who already had been diagnosed with the disease:  the study makes no claim about primary prevention. 

Results suggested that taking 0-1 aspirin per week showed no benefit, while taking 2-5 a week elicited a drop in recurrence up to 50%.  That's not a small difference.  I couldn't find anywhere in the article where they indicated it was important when, in relation to the date of diagnosis, the person began taking the aspirin.

Now for the caveats:  (1) it may be that women who took aspirin share some other propensity, or another medical condition, that could account for the effect.  (2) Also, when you're looking back many years, there is the possibility of "recall bias".  Remembering how many aspirin you took per week three decades ago may be like remembering what you ate on a particular day in 1980.  (3) Lastly, aspirin has a complicated history as a medical treatment, and significant side effects:  the cost-benefit element should be considered.  Parenthetically, if the treatment benefit comes from aspirin's anti-inflammatory effect, as some researchers have hypothesized, then other anti-inflam's should work, too...maybe.

Bottom line, before subscribing to this belief, particularly if you've had a neoplastic lesion, talk to your doctor.  My sense, as a non-specialist, is that it's a judgment call.

Doc D

Opinions are entirely my own.

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