The health benefits of a simple low-dose (81 mg) or “baby aspirin” taken regularly are circulating everywhere. Just a quick Google search brings up an abundance of information on aspirin. Aspirin is helpful in reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke and even cancer. Ovarian cancer, specifically, is one cancer research shows that aspirin helps to prevent.
How does aspirin work?
Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory drug. It works to reduce inflammation that occurs in the body. Inflammation can occur from any stress your body experiences, including injuries and infections like a cold or the flu. When your body is under stress, it produces and releases prostaglandins which cause pain and inflammation. Prostaglandins are helpful in certain situations, like when you accidentally cut yourself. But it’s chronic, on-going stress that can cause continual prostaglandin production and the inflammation could eventually lead to cancer. Aspirin combats prostaglandins by preventing their production, and therefore inflammation.
Does aspirin protect against ovarian cancer?
Studies that have looked into the relationship between aspirin and ovarian cancer show positive results. It looks promising that regular, perhaps daily use of low-dose aspirin is associated with a reduced risk of ovarian cancer. One study published in 2014 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that taking a “baby aspirin” regularly reduces the risk of ovarian cancer 20-34%, depending on how often it’s taken[i]. Another study, published in 2017 found that long term use of Aspirin has the strongest relationship between fending off ovarian cancer[ii].
Diagnosing ovarian cancer
The issue with ovarian cancer is that the symptoms are very common to all females. Early-on, there are little-to-no symptoms. When symptoms arise, they can include bloating, nausea, and pain in the pelvic region. The unfortunate reality is that so many of us would probably brush this off as normal “female issues” when it’s actually something more serious. That’s why screenings and early detection is key for combatting ovarian cancer. And it seems a regular aspirin regimen too!
Aspirin side effects
While aspirin might begin looking like a “miracle drug” it has its side effects. I would advise not to start taking low-dose aspirin until after you’ve spoken with your doctor. Aspirin can cause a stomach ulcer, a serious allergic reaction, or hemorrhagic stroke (meaning it can burst a blood vessel in your brain). Talk with your doctor if you are at risk for any of these, and figure out what will work best for you. In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open for future research on aspirin use and ovarian cancer.