Regular paracetamol use could reduce ovarian cancer risk by almost a third

Jul 06, 2006

Using paracetamol regularly could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by almost a third, according to a detailed analysis in the July issue of British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

A research team from Athens University found that the risk fell by up to 30 per cent when they analysed the results of major studies carried out on more than 746,000 women over a six-year period.

4,405 of the women in the eight major studies – from the USA, UK and Denmark – had ovarian cancer.

The team looked at all studies covering paracetamol and ovarian cancer from 1966 to 2004. These were then scrutinised using sophisticated meta-analysis techniques.

"Meta-analysis involves doing a large amount of research into what has been published, summarising the results and combining them using statistical methods" explains lead researcher Dr Stefanos Bonovas from the Greek Ministry of Health. "Analysing a wide range studies can often throw new light on a problem and raise new research questions.

"In this case our analysis of eight major studies – covering nearly three-quarters of a million women - revealed a strong correlation between paracetamol use and a reduced risk of ovarian cancer."

Seven of the studies looked at the links between paracetamol use and the incidence of ovarian cancer and the largest study looked at the link between paracetamol use and ovarian cancer deaths.

The researchers used a working definition of "regular use" as the highest frequency of drug use reported in the individual studies. This definition varied slightly between studies. In the largest study – which covered more than a third of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer – it was defined as more than 30 tablets in the month before the study started.

"Ovarian cancer remains the most fatal gynaecological malignancy" says Dr Bonovas. "Its high mortality rate – mainly due to a combination of ineffective screening and the limited success of therapies for advanced disease - makes ovarian cancer a major health concern.

"Strategies that focus on prevention may therefore provide the most rational approach for reducing deaths from this form of cancer.

"Because paracetamol is so widely used, a link with a decreased risk of ovarian cancer could have important public health implications."

The authors believe that further research among women with a high risk of developing ovarian cancer would provide further clues to the drug's protective qualities.

"The risks of long-term paracetamol use - including liver and chronic kidney failure – may outweigh the potential benefits of preventing ovarian cancer in low-risk cases" concludes Dr Bonovas.

"However we believe that a randomised trial in women with a high risk of developing the disease might be appropriate. Further research is also needed into how this protective mechanism actually works.

The authors stress that they are not suggesting that women adopt this possible method of risk prevention at this stage.

"But we do feel that our study highlights the need for further research into this highly important link between a simple over-the-counter medicine and a very aggressive form of cancer" says Dr Bonovas.

Source: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Explore further: Study finds codeine often prescribed to children, despite available alternatives

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

11 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

12 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

12 hours ago

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...