Aspirin reduces ovarian cancer risk regardless of genetic predisposition
Ovarian cancer is a highly fatal type of cancer that can be caused by several genetic factors. A recent study examined whether the protection provided by taking aspirin frequently, which has been shown to reduce ovarian cancer risk, was affected by a genetic predisposition to the disease.
Aspirin is used to treat everything from fever, headaches, menstrual pain, muscle aches and toothaches to the pain associated with arthritis. It is also used as a preventative to guard against heart attack and stroke. But its use must be weighed according to its potential adverse effects, such as gastric bleeding and stroke.
Ovarian cancer is the eighth most commonly occurring cancer in women. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, in 2020 there were 207,252 deaths from ovarian cancer worldwide. The risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age, family history, and the presence of breast cancer susceptibility gene (BRCA) mutations.
Australian and international researchers recently undertook a meta-analysis of eight studies to determine if the reduction in ovarian cancer risk associated with frequent aspirin use – daily or almost daily use for six months or more – was affected by genetic factors.
The researchers had previously investigated whether women at increased risk of ovarian cancer due to factors such as endometriosis, obesity, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or childlessness benefited from frequent aspirin use. They found that frequent aspirin use was associated with a 13% reduction in ovarian cancer risk.
In the current study, genetic susceptibility to ovarian cancer was summarized using a polygenic score (PGS), which represents the total number of genetic variants an individual has that increase their risk of developing a particular disease. Combining a PGS with other factors that affect disease risk can give a better idea of how likely you are to get a specific disease than considering either alone.
Data from 4,476 patients with various types of ovarian cancers (except mucinous ovarian cancer) and 6,659 control subjects were tested. Consistent with the results of the previous study, the researchers found that frequent aspirin use was associated with a 13% reduction in ovarian cancer.
They also found that genetic susceptibility to ovarian cancer did not reduce the protective effect of frequent aspirin use.
The results suggest that genetic susceptibility to ovarian cancer does not undermine the protective value of frequent aspirin use in this type of cancer and that aspirin continues to be an important drug in the fight against ovarian cancer.
The study was published in JAMA Network Open.