Regular use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and breast cancer risk for women at familial or genetic risk: a cohort study

Breast Cancer Res. 2019 Apr 18;21(1):52. doi: 10.1186/s13058-019-1135-y.


Background: The use of aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been associated with reduced breast cancer risk, but it is not known if this association extends to women at familial or genetic risk. We examined the association between regular NSAID use and breast cancer risk using a large cohort of women selected for breast cancer family history, including 1054 BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers.

Methods: We analyzed a prospective cohort (N = 5606) and a larger combined, retrospective and prospective, cohort (N = 8233) of women who were aged 18 to 79 years, enrolled before June 30, 2011, with follow-up questionnaire data on medication history. The prospective cohort was further restricted to women without breast cancer when medication history was asked by questionnaire. Women were recruited from seven study centers in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Associations were estimated using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusted for demographics, lifestyle factors, family history, and other medication use. Women were classified as regular or non-regular users of aspirin, COX-2 inhibitors, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, and acetaminophen (control) based on self-report at follow-up of ever using the medication for at least twice a week for ≥1 month prior to breast cancer diagnosis. The main outcome was incident invasive breast cancer, based on self- or relative-report (81% confirmed pathologically).

Results: From fully adjusted analyses, regular aspirin use was associated with a 39% and 37% reduced risk of breast cancer in the prospective (HR = 0.61; 95% CI = 0.33-1.14) and combined cohorts (HR = 0.63; 95% CI = 0.57-0.71), respectively. Regular use of COX-2 inhibitors was associated with a 61% and 71% reduced risk of breast cancer (prospective HR = 0.39; 95% CI = 0.15-0.97; combined HR = 0.29; 95% CI = 0.23-0.38). Other NSAIDs and acetaminophen were not associated with breast cancer risk in either cohort. Associations were not modified by familial risk, and consistent patterns were found by BRCA1 and BRCA2 carrier status, estrogen receptor status, and attained age.

Conclusion: Regular use of aspirin and COX-2 inhibitors might reduce breast cancer risk for women at familial or genetic risk.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Family history; High-risk population; Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Aspirin / adverse effects*
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • Aspirin