NSAIDs May Hide Prostate Cancer RisksSep 9, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP U.S. researchers report that taking pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen lowers the levels of a protein in a man's blood that doctors use to screen for prostate cancer. The researchers also said it is unclear if this means these men have a lower risk for developing prostate cancer or if these medications create difficulty in detecting prostate tumors using a common screening blood test. NSAIDs are used by millions of people for headaches, minor pain, arthritis, lowering fever, and for reducing swelling. Among them are aspirin, ibuprofen (for example: Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (for example: Aleve).
The study—conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York—involved 1,319 U.S. men age 40 and older and revealed that men who took nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs--NSAIDs,--nearly every day showed prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels of about 10 percent lower than those men who did not take NSAIDs. PSA is a protein produced by cells in the prostate gland; elevated PSA levels in the bloodstream may point to prostate cancer or other prostate conditions. The researchers also said it is too early for men be prescribed NSAIDs for the purpose of lowering prostate cancer risks.
Many men have annual blood tests taken to measure PSA levels to screen for prostate cancer. The study reported that NSAIDs could disguise a man's prostate cancer risk by lowering PSA levels while his risk remains unchanged. "If you're a guy who's close to the upper limit of normal (in PSA levels) or would have been over the upper limit and now you're under it because of this, that could certainly change whether or not you would be referred for a biopsy (to check for a tumor)," Dr Eric Singer, one of the researchers, said.
Meanwhile, Edwin van Wijngaarden, one of the researchers, said that, "While our results are consistent with other research that indicates that certain painkillers may reduce a man's risk of getting prostate cancer, the new findings are preliminary and don't prove a link." The study was published in the American Cancer Society's journal Cancer and also found that men who regularly took acetaminophen (Tylenol) also tested with lower PSA levels. Because there of the limited number of men in this study who took acetaminophen, the study’s findings regarding acetaminophen use and PSA levels are not considered statistically significant
Currently, there is a debate in the medical community concerning the value of PSA testing with some experts saying that routine screening reveals many prostate tumors that pose no threat to a man's life and can lead to unnecessary prostate cancer treatment. Meanwhile, experts are pending the results of clinical trials that are taking place in the United States and Europe that may indicate whether PSA screening actually does save lives.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men worldwide, with about 780,000 men diagnosed annually. Prostate cancer is also the sixth mostly deadly form of cancer in men, with about 250,000 deaths per year.