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Rapporteur report

Professor Kathleen Bennett

30 January 2017

Aspirin, hormones and breast cancer

Watch Professor Bennett's presentation on You Tube at the link below

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Long-term aspirin use can reduce the risk of lymph node positive breast cancer 

Research is ongoing to find out who will benefit from long-term aspirin 

Study identified reasons why women stop taking hormone therapy, findings can inform interventions  

Could an aspirin a day keep breast cancer from advancing? Evidence is emerging that women who took aspirin regularly for years before their initial breast cancer diagnosis have a lower risk of the cancer spreading, as Professor Kathleen Bennett explained at the HRB 30 conference.

‘Aspirin is one of the most used drugs in the world’, she said, adding that evidence suggests it can help reduce cancer risk, metastatic disease and death. ‘Aspirin can save lives’.  

The blood-thinner is not without its risks: particularly in the initial years of regular use the risk of bleeding is higher. But it can also protect against heart attacks and other cancers. 

In one HRB-funded study, Professor Bennett and colleagues looked at data for breast cancer and aspirin use in Ireland. They found that long-term aspirin use was linked with a reduced risk of the cancer having spread by the time of initial diagnosis, and with reduced mortality among those where the cancer had not spread. 

The study has led to further research as part of the Irish Cancer Society’s BREAST-PREDICT collaborative cancer research centre to help figure out who will benefit from long-term aspirin use.  

Professor Bennett, who is an Associate Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and a HRB Research Leader, was also involved in a separate HRB-funded study on breast cancer to find out why women stop taking prescribed hormone therapy for the condition. 

‘We found that 22% stop after a year’, she noted. ‘That led on to research identifying what are the modifying influences that characterise why women stop’. 

The study pinpointed several barriers, including side-effects and  how different women believe the treatment will help them, and Professor Bennett hopes the findings will inform interventions. ‘Understanding behaviour and [the] move towards behaviour change are key to getting evidence into healthcare practice and policy’, she said. ‘This is the key to bringing the evidence into practice’. 

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