Researchers suggest that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen may improve men's urinary health.
A team at the Mayo Clinic say an enlarged prostate might be prevented or delayed by taking aspirin or a similar painkiller on a regular basis.
An enlarged prostate can cause urinary symptoms in men as they age, such as frequent urination, trouble starting urination, awakening frequently at night to urinate, weak urine stream and an urgent need to urinate.
Experts say the condition is common and usually affects one of every four men ages 40 to 50 and almost half of those over 70.
The study came about as a result of the findings of several earlier studies which suggested that men who took NSAIDs regularly had less of a risk of prostate cancer.
For the study Dr. Jenny St. Sauver and colleagues looked at 2,447 local Olmsted County men, where the Mayo Clinic is based.
Participants completed questionnaires every two years from 1990 to 2002, which included information on daily NSAID use.
A random subgroup also took part in a medical evaluation that included PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level assessment and transrectal ultrasound, in which a small probe is inserted into the rectum to obtain images of the prostate gland.
One-third of the men studied were taking daily NSAIDs when they enrolled in the study.
Exactly how NSAIDs might prevent prostates from enlarging is unclear but the researchers suggest that the drugs may reduce prostate cell growth or increase the natural death of these cells or it could be the drugs' anti-inflammatory effect.
Dr. Michael Lieber, a urologist and a study investigator says they found the risk of developing an enlarged prostate was 50 percent lower in NSAID users compared to non-users, and risk of developing moderate to severe urinary symptoms was 35 percent lower.
Lead study investigator Jenny St. Sauver, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic epidemiologist, says the study suggests that a potential but unintended consequence of taking NSAIDs could be an improvement in urinary health for men.
She does not however recommend taking daily NSAIDs based on this study alone, due to the potential side effects such as stomach ulcers.
The research is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.