It has been shown that taking painkillers triples survival
Researchers studied the tumors of 75 patients who carried mutated versions of the PIK3CA gene. Those who regularly use NSAIDs for at least six months have had a "significantly longer" experience than those who do not. Drug use has increased five-year survival from 25% to 78%, according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.
Patients without changes in their gene have not benefited from NSAIDs.
Author of the study, Dr. Jennifer R. Grandys, said: "Our results indicate that using NSAIDs can significantly improve results not only in head and neck cancers but also in patients with other cancers that contain the PIK3CA mutation .
"The scale of the obvious advantage is strong and can potentially have a positive impact on human health."
PIKC3A is the most frequently altered gene in head and neck cancer, with 34% of patients carrying mutations.
More than a third of people with head and neck cancer can benefit from regular pain relievers
Researchers say NSAIDs probably block tumor growth by reducing the production of an inflammatory molecule called prostaglandin E2.
More than 12,000 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year in the UK and about 4,000 sufferers die annually.
The main risk factors include smoking, alcohol use and HPV infection.
Dr. Grandy added: "The inconsistencies in the type, timing and doses of NSAIDs taken by patients in this study limit our ability to make specific therapeutic recommendations.
"But the magnitude of the obvious advantage, especially given the reported morbidity and mortality of this disease, requires a further study in a prospective, randomized clinical trial."
Justin Stebb, professor of cancer medicine and medical oncology at Imperial College London, said: "We know that inflammation is really important in cancer and can be used as part of the processes by which cancer cells are spreading and growing.
Studies in the colon, breast and other tumors have shown that anti-inflammatory drugs can be useful in cancer patients who have certain mutations in them.
This study in the field of head and neck cancer results in this knowledge with anti-inflammatory agents acting on two enzymes: COX and PI3K proteins.
"We have to wait for the results of future studies and ongoing to find out if patients should take these medicines, when and how, and at what dose.
"Therefore, the nationwide study of Add-Aspirin for all cancers is so important when measuring survival in patients taking aspirin or placebo in order to try to better understand the effects."
The Add-Aspirin study has attracted 11,000 people in the UK, Ireland and India to find out if the use of an early-stage cancer treatment may stop coming back.
Comment by Philippe Hobson
Aspirin has been used for many years as an effective remedy for pain relief.
If you suffer from a severe headache or a serious flu, aspirin can really help.
But its benefits do not end here. Scientists have found that a much lower dose of aspirin can also slow the process of blood clotting by stopping platelet fusion.
Scientists have found that low-dose aspirin may delay blood clotting
People who have suffered a heart attack or stroke are often prescribed daily for a small dose of aspirin, as they can significantly reduce the risk of subsequent heart attacks and strokes.
The opposite side of aspirin that works in this way is that it can also slightly increase the risk of internal bleeding such as gastric bleeding and cause other side effects.
For people who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, this small risk is offset by the potentially life-saving benefits of aspirin.
For healthy people, however, this is not the case. UK guidelines recommend only daily aspirin for those with heart and blood disorders and as prescribed by a doctor.
However, there were worrying reports about healthy people taking aspirin to prevent a stroke or stroke without first seeking medical attention. This can be dangerous.
We will always encourage people to discuss taking aspirin with your GP or a first-rate specialist.
For those who are prescribed aspirin after a heart attack or stroke, you should continue to take them every day and talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
It is important to follow the advice given with your medicine. It is recommended that you take aspirin with food to reduce unwanted side effects, such as stomach acid or indigestion, which can cause symptoms of chest pain.
If you experience side effects such as indigestion, excessive bruising or bleeding, please discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.
• Philip Hobson is a heart nurse at the British Heart Foundation