Reduction in the risk of human breast cancer by selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors

BMC Cancer. 2006 Jan 30;6:27. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-6-27.


Background: Epidemiologic and laboratory investigations suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have chemopreventive effects against breast cancer due to their activity against cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), the rate-limiting enzyme of the prostaglandin cascade.

Methods: We conducted a case control study of breast cancer designed to compare effects of selective and non-selective COX-2 inhibitors. A total of 323 incident breast cancer patients were ascertained from the James Cancer Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, during 2003-2004 and compared with 649 cancer free controls matched to the cases at a 2:1 ratio on age, race, and county of residence. Data on the past and current use of prescription and over the counter medications and breast cancer risk factors were ascertained using a standardized risk factor questionnaire. Effects of COX-2 inhibiting agents were quantified by calculating odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals.

Results: Results showed significant risk reductions for selective COX-2 inhibitors as a group (OR = 0.29, 95% CI = 0.14-0.59), regular aspirin (OR = 0.49, 95% CI = 0.26-0.94), and ibuprofen or naproxen (0.36, 95% CI = 0.18-0.72). Acetaminophen, a compound with negligible COX-2 activity and low dose aspirin (81 mg) produced no significant change in the risk of breast cancer.

Conclusion: Selective COX-2 inhibitors (celecoxib and rofecoxib) were only recently approved for use in 1999, and rofecoxib (Vioxx) was withdrawn from the marketplace in 2004. Nevertheless, even in the short window of exposure to these compounds, the selective COX-2 inhibitors produced a significant (71%) reduction in the risk of breast cancer, underscoring their strong potential for breast cancer chemoprevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chemoprevention
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors