A growing body of research is increasingly pointing to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen as protective agents against prostate cancer (PCa). I have previously written about the link between aspirin use and reduced PCa risk. Now, a new analysis of data from a French population-based study reveals that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) without aspirin also lower the chance of developing prostate cancer.
The EPICAP study
The particular study from a French team is called the EPICAP (EPIdemiology of Prostate Cancer) study. It involved detailed records of 819 newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients (less than 75 years old) and 879 age-matched controls (no prostate cancer). Each patient and control was personally interviewed using a standardized questionnaire. The information that was gathered included “socioeconomic characteristics, personal medical history and drugs use, family history of cancer, diet, tobacco, and alcohol consumption, physical activity, and residential and occupational history.”[i]
In addition, they were asked about the name, frequency and duration of any NSAIDs they had used throughout their lives. Details included why they used the drugs, and if they were prescription or OTC. For the PCa patients in the study, clinical factors such as PSA at diagnosis and Gleason score were obtained from medical records.
What the data showed
Once all the facts and figures were analyzed, the research time found that men who took one or more pills per day had a 62% lower risk of PCa compared with men who never used NSAIDs. In the group that used NSAIDs had a 51% less chance of developing higher risk PCa (Gleason 4+3 or higher).
Of special note is that the protective effect was even greater among men with a history of prostatitis. This group had a 79% decreased risk compared with non-NSAID users. Why is this important? It is now widely accepted that prostate inflammation can be a precursor of PCa. Therefore, it seems to be more than just theory that preventing or controlling prostate inflammation lowers the odds of PCa.
What does this mean for you?
Let’s start by saying what this does NOT mean for you! This study does not mean that you should take ibuprofen or acetaminophen every day if you don’t need it. There is no established standard of care suggesting that NSAIDs should be used as a daily preventive – for PCa or for anything else.
However, if you use an NSAID appropriately (as directed in the instructions) for relief of pain from headaches, muscle aches, injury, arthritis, etc., or the aches and fever of a viral or bacterial infection, you are also benefiting in terms of reducing any inflammation in your body at the time of use. This includes your prostate.
So you may consider keeping your preferred brand (or generic) of NSAID in your medicine cabinet. Meanwhile, if you have known risk factors for PCa (family history, ethnicity, exposure to environmental toxins, etc.) you should do the following:
- Talk with your doctor about screening, genomic testing, and the merits of using NSAIDs on a regular basis
- Have a baseline 3T multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) of your prostate at age 50, if not sooner.
Remember the age-old saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
[i] Doat S, Cénée S, Trétarre B, Rebillard X, Lamy PJ et al. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and prostate cancer risk: results from the EPICAP study. Cancer Med. 2017 Oct;6(10):2461-2470.