Common painkillers may lower a man's risk of prostate cancer

Scientists are suggesting that common painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen could possibly lower a man's risk of developing prostate cancer.

It appears that the painkillers lower the PSA level in the blood - PSA levels are biomarker widely used by doctors to determine whether a man is at risk of prostate cancer.

The researchers however do warn men to not jump the gun and start taking such painkillers in an effort to avoid prostate cancer.

The researchers at the the University of Rochester Medical Center in the United States studied the records of 1,319 men who took part in a national health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The men were all over the age of 40 and took part in the 2001-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The Rochester team looked at the men's use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as the painkiller acetaminophen, and also at their PSA levels.

Lead researcher Dr. Eric A. Singer says while they found that men who regularly took certain NSAIDS, had a lower serum PSA level, there was not enough data to say that men who took the medications were less likely to get prostate cancer as the study was limited and it is not know how many of those men actually did get prostate cancer.

But the team do know that men who used NSAIDs regularly had PSA levels about 10 percent lower compared to men who did not and though a similar observation with acetaminophen was seen, the result was not statistically significant due to the lower number of men in the study taking the medication.

The researchers say it would be too easy to assume that a lowered PSA level automatically translates to a lowered risk of prostate cancer but that conclusion would be premature as the results are at this stage preliminary and do not prove a link.

Chronic inflammation has been linked to many different types of malignancies, including prostate cancer and researchers suspect that inflammation associated with prostate cancer may occur through a variety of mechanisms such as infection, hormonal changes, physical trauma, urine reflux, and dietary habits.

Dr. Singer says that a man's PSA level can be elevated for reasons unrelated to cancer, and while inflammation is part of a cancer process, sometimes it is not so and it is possible that a lowered PSA reflects reduced inflammation without affecting a man's risk of prostate cancer.

It is also possible that a PSA level lowered by NSAIDs might artificially mask a man's risk of getting prostate cancer as while the medications might lower the PSA, a man's risk might stay precisely the same.

Dr. Singer, who is a urology specialist says the data is very interesting, but it will take more research to determine how to interpret the findings and in the meantime, this research should not change men's behaviour or prompt them to take these medications to try to prevent prostate cancer.

The research is published in the journal Cancer.

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