Association between acetaminophen or nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs and risk of developing ovarian, breast, or colon cancer

Pharmacotherapy. 2002 Mar;22(3):303-9. doi: 10.1592/phco.22.5.303.33189.


Study objective: To explore the association between exposure to acetaminophen (paracetamol) or nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and risk of developing ovarian, breast, or colon cancer.

Design: Retrospective case-control study

Setting: General practice offices.

Subjects: Four hundred eighty-three women with ovarian cancer and 1877 women matched for age, years of medical history in computer record, general practice attended, and calendar time; 3706 women with breast cancer and 14,155 matched control subjects; and 635 women with colon cancer and 2434 matched control subjects.

Intervention: United Kingdom-based General Practice Research Database was searched for women aged 50-89 years with a first-time diagnosis of ovarian, breast, or colon cancer and for matched controls to assess prescription analgesic exposure.

Measurements and main results: Regular acetaminophen exposure (> or = 30 prescriptions) was associated with a slightly decreased risk of developing breast (odds ratio [OR] 0.8, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.7-1.0) but not ovarian (OR 1.0, 95% CI 0.6-1.5) or colon (OR 1.0, 95% Cl 0.7-1.4) cancer. Regular NSAID exposure was associated with a reduced risk of colon (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3-0.9) but not ovarian or breast cancer.

Conclusion: We found no evidence for a decreased ovarian cancer risk for women with regular acetaminophen or NSAID exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Acetaminophen