Should I take aspirin to reduce my breast cancer risk?
For decades, we’ve been focused on developing cancer treatments that attack cancer cells. But now we know the environment that surrounds the cells also plays a role in spurring its growth. And that presents new options for prevention.
A meta-analysis of randomized trials that had individuals take an aspirin daily to see if it would reduce their risk for strokes and blood clots found it did not decrease the risk of getting cancer but did make it less likely that it would metastasize.
Does this mean you start taking a daily aspirin? There is no easy answer, and what might be right for you might not be right for someone else. For healthy people, the potential risks associated with aspirin, which include an increased risk of peptic ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeds, need to be weighed against the benefits. For someone who has already been diagnosed with cancer, it is possible the benefits may outweigh the risks. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with cancer, you should certainly talk to your doctor before starting to take a daily aspirin, as you may have other health conditions or be on other drugs that would tip the scale more toward risk than benefit.
Should I take metformin to reduce my breast cancer risk?
Metformin is a drug that is used to treat type II diabetes. Some studies have found that women who are taking metformin to treat their diabetes had a lower risk of breast cancer. The problem is many of the women with diabetes were obese (being overweight increases breast cancer risk) and it wasn’t clear if it was the metformin or weight loss associated with helping patients control their diabetes that resulted in the breast cancer risk reduction. Furthermore, the reduction was modest and did not affect everyone.
Studies are now underway that are looking specifically at whether metformin reduces breast cancer risk. Researchers are also studying whether metformin is beneficial when used as a cancer treatment. Right now, though, there is no evidence that metformin should be used to prevent or treat breast cancer outside of a research study.
Is there a breast cancer vaccine?
One of the most exciting areas of prevention research is in the area of vaccines. Most of the current research is focused on preventing recurrence in women who have an invasive cancer but it is possible these vaccines might one day be used to prevent breast cancer.