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Vol. LXVI, No. 5
February 28, 2014

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Study Finds Regular Aspirin Use May Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk

An NCI study found that women who take aspirin daily may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by

An NCI study found that women who take aspirin daily may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 20 percent.

Women who take aspirin daily may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 20 percent, according to a study by scientists at NCI. However, further research is needed before clinical recommendations can be made.

The study was published Feb. 6 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

It is estimated that over 20,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2014, and more than 14,000 will die from the disease. Early-stage ovarian cancer may be successfully treated. However, symptoms associated with this disease can mimic more common conditions, such as digestive and bladder disorders, so for this reason and others, it is often not diagnosed until it has reached advanced stages.

Late-stage ovarian cancer leaves women with limited treatment options and poor prognoses, making preventive strategies potentially important for controlling this disease.

Chronic or persistent inflammation has been shown to increase the risk of cancer and other diseases. Previous studies have suggested that the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin and non-aspirin NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may reduce cancer risk overall. However, studies examining whether use of these agents may influence ovarian cancer risk have been largely inconclusive.

This is the largest study to date to assess the relationship between these drugs and ovarian cancer risk.
This study adds to a growing list of malignancies, such as colorectal and other cancers, that appear to be potentially preventable by aspirin usage.

Adverse side effects of daily aspirin use include upper gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. Therefore, a daily aspirin regimen should only be undertaken with a doctor’s approval, caution the scientists.

Study Seeks to Improve Asthma Therapy for African Americans

Researchers will enroll around 500 African-American children and adults who have asthma in a multi-center clinical trial to assess how they react to therapies and to explore the role of genetics in determining the response to asthma treatment. This new clinical study, which will take place at 30 sites in 14 states, is aimed at understanding the best approach to asthma management in African Americans, who suffer much higher rates of serious asthma attacks, hospitalizations and asthma-related deaths than whites.

The Best African-American Response to Asthma Drugs (BARD) study is under the auspices of NHLBI.

“This large-scale clinical effort is expected to provide new insights into how health care professionals can better manage asthma in African Americans to improve outcomes,” said NHLBI director Dr. Gary Gibbons.

“BARD reinforces the institute’s commitment to understand, reduce and ultimately even eliminate the disparities in asthma outcomes observed in the African-American population compared to other Americans with asthma,” added Dr. James Kiley, director of NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases.

Study Offers Insight into Why Cancer Incidence Increases with Age

The accumulation of age-associated changes in a biochemical process that helps control genes may be responsible for some of the increased risk of cancer seen in older people, according to an NIH study.

Scientists have known for years that age is a leading risk factor for the development of many types of cancer, but why aging increases cancer risk remains unclear. Researchers suspect that DNA methylation, or the binding of chemical tags, called methyl groups, onto DNA, may be involved. Methyl groups activate or silence genes by affecting interactions between DNA and the cell’s protein-making machinery.

Drs. Zongli Xu and Jack Taylor, researchers from NIEHS, identified DNA methylation sites across the human genome that changed with age. They demonstrated that a subset of those sites—the ones that become increasingly methylated with advancing age—are also disproportionately methylated in a variety of human cancers. Their findings were published online in the journal Carcinogenesis.

“You can think of methylation as dust settling on an unused switch, which then prevents the cell from turning on certain genes,” Taylor said. “If a cell can no longer turn on critical developmental programs, it might be easier for it to become a cancer cell.”

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