Science News

A Pill To Prevent Ovarian Cancer?

Sun, 9th Jul 2006

Part of the show Allergies, the Immune System and Parasites

Ovarian cancer is often known as the "silent killer" as the disease is very difficult to detect until it has spread throughout the body, and more than 4,600 women die from it every year in the UK. In fact, Cancer Research UK are carrying out a large screening trial involving 200,000 women, to test whether a simple blood test or ultrasound scan can pick up ovarian cancer. But this week saw the publication of some interesting news. Researchers at the University of Athens in Greece have found that the humble drug paracetamol may help to prevent ovarian cancer, pointing towards new ways to prevent the disease. The team carried out what is know as a meta-analysis - pooling all the results from eight studies to include around 750,000 women. They found that for women who took paracetamol on a regular basis (for example, around a tablet every day), their risk of ovarian cancer dropped by a third compared to women who didn't take the drug regularly.However, long-term use of paracetamol can also have side effects, such as kidney and liver damage, and it may even increase the risk of other cancers, so it's not a good idea to rush out and start taking them if you're worried. But this research may pave the way for a large scale controlled clinical trial to test paracetamol's effectiveness. We also don't know how paracetamol might actually work to prevent ovarian cancer. It is likely that it works in a similar way to drugs such as aspirin, which can cut the risk of bowel cancer, by interfering with atype of enzyme called COX.


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