The results of a study conducted by a group of scientists from several US universities published in the journal cancer,
Previous studies have shown that some women who take aspirin have a lower risk of breast cancer, and if they become ill, they have a higher chance of survival than those who have not taken the medicine. Scientists attribute this effect to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), as chronic inflammation plays a key role in the development of many cancers, including breast cancer. However, aspirin does not always play such a positive role – there are some patients for whom taking the drug, on the contrary, reduces the chances of survival, which makes breast cancer even more aggressive.
The study's authors suggested that the reasons underlying such a dual role of aspirin in breast cancer are related to the genetic characteristics of patients and tumors. Because of these characteristics, aspirin can interfere with DNA methylation in various ways – a process of chemical alteration of a DNA molecule that acts as a switch, turning on and off the activity of certain genes. In some cases, the result is a reduction in the tumor and a strengthening of the body's defenses, and in some cases the consequences are just the opposite.
To confirm or disprove this hypothesis, researchers analyzed data on 1,266 breast cancer patients. These women were diagnosed in 1996-97 and monitored until 2014. By the end of this period, 476 had died, with 202 being breast cancer. The researchers examined the patterns of activity of 13 breast cancer-related genes in tumor cells and cells circulating in patients' blood, and compared these data with information on women taking aspirin, assessing the individual's risk of dying from breast cancer.
As it turns out, the role of aspirin in whether or not a patient survives cancer really depends on personal genetic characteristics, that is, on the profile of methylation (change) of DNA in the tissues of the tumor and blood. Thus, in some patients who started taking aspirin at least six weeks before diagnosis, the risk of death after breast cancer was increased by 67%. However, in these women, DNA is definitely altered in the region of the genome that controls gene activity BRCA1, This gene is also called the "Angelina Jolie gene" because one of its variants involves a very high risk of hereditary breast cancer and, as a carrier of such an option, the Hollywood actress chose to proactively perform double mastectomy (surgery for removal of both mammary glands).
At the same time in patients taking aspirin but who did not have DNA methylation in the control gene BRCA1 In the region, the risk of death from breast cancer is reduced by 22-40%.
As the authors of the study point out, the results are preliminary and do not mean that women at high risk of breast cancer should urgently start or, on the contrary, stop aspirin. Further research, according to scientists, will allow you to determine exactly who aspirin will be useful for and for whom it is dangerous.
Read also interesting facts about aspirin.
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