Previous research has suggested that aspirin may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer and melanoma. Now, new research from the National Institutes of Health suggests that women who take low-dose aspirin every day may reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 20%.

The findings were recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The National Cancer Institute states that approximately 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in the US last year, and more than 14,000 women will die from the disease in 2014.

If ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, it can be successfully treated. However, detecting the condition in its early stages can be a problem.

Symptoms of the disease include pain in the lower abdomen and feeling bloated. But because these symptoms are similar to other conditions, such as bladder and digestive disorders, ovarian cancer can often be missed.

This means it is often not diagnosed until it has reached its advanced stages, meaning treatment can be less effective.

The risk of cancer and other diseases can often be increased if a person suffers from chronic or persistent inflammation.

In previous studies, it has been suggested that the use of non-aspirin NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and aspirin – which have anti-inflammatory properties – may reduce overall cancer risk.

But the investigators of this most recent study note that research looking at the link between anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of ovarian cancer has been ambiguous.

In an attempt to reach a conclusion, the investigators analyzed data from 12 large studies that were a part of the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium.

The data included 7,776 women who had ovarian cancer, alongside 11,843 women without the disease.

The researchers looked at the use of aspirin, non-aspirin NSAIDS or acetaminophen (a drug with no anti-inflammatory properties) among the women and whether usage was linked to a reduced risk of ovarian cancer.

Of the participants, 18% used aspirin, 24% used non-aspirin NSAIDS and 16% used acetaminophen.

The investigators found that women who reported using low-dose aspirin (less than 100 mg) on a daily basis had a 20% reduced risk of ovarian cancer, compared with women who used aspirin less than once a week.

Depending on the frequency and dose of aspirin use, the researchers say the drug could reduce ovarian cancer risk by up to 34%.

A 10% reduced risk of ovarian cancer was found for women who used high-dose non-aspirin NSAIDS (more than 500 mg) at least once a week, compared with those who used the drugs less often. But they say this finding did not fall within a scope they deemed to be statistically significant.

There was no reduced risk of ovarian cancer found among women who took acetaminophen.

The investigators say that although the findings suggest that the use of aspirin could prevent ovarian cancer, individuals should continue to follow the guidance of their doctor when it comes to aspirin use.

They note that for some people, daily aspirin use can cause severe side effects. These can include bleeding in the stomach, inflammation and hemorrhagic stroke.

Britton Trabert, of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute and co-author of the study, says:

Our study suggests that aspirin regimens, proven to protect against heart attack, may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer as well.

However intriguing our results are, they should not influence current clinical practice. Additional studies are needed to explore the delicate balance of risk-benefit for this potential chemopreventive agent, as well as studies to identify the mechanism by which aspirin may reduce ovarian cancer risk.”

Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that women who take aspirin every other day may reduce their risk of colon cancer. But another study from July last year suggests that not everyone sees the benefits of aspirin.