Breast cancer patients who took a low-dose aspirin two to five days a week—regardless of hormone receptor status—were 60 percent less likely to have a recurrence and 71 percent less likely to die from breast cancer.

The research:

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston studied data from 4,164 female nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1976 and 2002. By 2006, there had been 400 recurrences and 341 deaths among the nurses. They studied the women’s aspirin use beginning 12 months after diagnosis, when the treatment was usually finished.

The findings:

• the majority of women took 81 mg a day, usually for their heart

• taking aspirin once a week produced no benefit.

• Tylenol or acetaminophen provided not benefit.

• Both hormone-negative and hormone-positive women benefitted.

• Results were essentially the same, regardless of stage, menopausal status, or body mass index.

The interpretation:

Doctors believe aspirin’s benefit may come from its anti-inflammatory properties.

The warning:

•The data so far show an association, not a cause, and other factors could be at work, such as the fact that the women who took the aspirin might be more health conscious than those who did not take aspirin.

• If you have a health problem that can be exacerbated by aspirin, such as ulcers, visit your doctor before considering this approach.

• Aspirin can interfere with the chemotherapy or produce side effects, so check with your doctor if you are undergoing treatment.

The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, published online February 16, 2010.

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