Anti-inflammatories and prostate cancer prevention

Yet again we have the presentation of data suggesting that men who take a regular dose of aspirin (or a similar anti-inflammatory agent) may have a lower overall risk for prostate cancer in general and for high-risk prostate cancer in particular … but please note the word “may” and remember that the daily use of aspirin is not free of risk for side effects — some of which can be significant.

Vidal et al. presented the most recent data yesterday, at a meeting organized by the American Association for Cancer Research.

According to the study’s authors (as reported on the Bloomberg News web site and by US News and World Report), men who regularly used anti-inflammatory agents for the treatment of pain (compared to men who did not use such drugs on a regular basis) had

  • A 13 percent lower risk of prostate cancer
  • 17 percent fewer dangerous, high-grade prostate cancer tumors

A second study presented at the same meeting suggested that the mechanism responsible for preventing the tumors could be ability of anti-inflammatory agernts to block production of a hormone that spurs cancer growth.

It is not at all clear from the currently available data how many men were taking (for example) a low-dose aspirin on a daily basis and how many were taking either higher-dose aspirin or some other anti-inflammatory agent (e.g., acetominophen or ibuprofen or naproxen) to manage frequent headaches or other forms of pain. And the study data are clearly from some form of epidemiological study and not from a randomized, controlled trial.

Without data from some form of very large, well-coordinated, randomized, double-blind trial, we are never going to really know whether frequent use of aspirin or other anti-inflammatory agents is actually able to lower risk for prostate cancer in general or high-risk prostate cancer in particular … but for those men (like your sitemaster) who are already taking daily low-dose aspirin for other reasons, there do appear to be good reasons to believe that risk for a future diagnosis of prostate cancer is potentially reduced.

6 Responses

  1. Any mention of statins? It is believed (by some researchers, at least) that part of the reason statins have helped prevent cardiovascular disease is due to their anti-inflammatory effect. (See for example).

  2. No. This appears to have been a study purely related to the use of anti-inflammatory agents. The potential effects of statins are similarly ill-defined (although there does appear to be a preventive impact from similar epidemiological studies); once again, these have not been confirmed in prospective clinical trials as yet (and many never be becuase of the size and costs of such trials).

  3. You know how some things resonate and others don’t? Well this one does not resonate with me. I had 7 years on “half-prin” (80 mg ASA b.i.d.) with 2 years on ibuprofen (250 mg bid). Then I was, nevertheless, diagnosed with Gleason 9 prostate cancer this year.


    Hi Sitemaster. As always, thanks!

    I too have been on a low-dose aspirin daily for years now, mostly as cardiovascular insurance. I also exercise vigorously and engage in some strenuous activity, and when I do, at 71, I really like “my Aleve,” as the ad puts it.

    What I’m driving at is that some evidence suggests that exercise is helpful against prostate cancer, and NSAID use may be a proxy for exercise as relates to prostate cancer, at least to some extent.

    I’m curious whether any researchers have attempted to tease out the potentially complementary and perhaps partially independent effects of NSAID use and exercise.

  5. Acetaminophen is not an anti-inflammatory agent.

  6. Dear Mike Stanley:

    No one is saying that long-term anti-inflammatory therapy can prevent all prostate cancer. All that anyone is saying is that long-term use of anti-inflammatory agents may lower risk in large numbers of patients on a statistical basis. The fact that anti-inflammatory agents didn’t prevent you from being diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer doesn’t mean that they might have been able to do so for others. There are many different sub-types of prostate cancer — some more common than others.

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