Does Pain Killer Use Increase The Risk of Prostate Cancer?

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The next time you reach for a bottle of ibuprofen or celecoxib (Celebrex), remember the results of this latest study. Finnish researchers have found that use of pain killers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is associated with a 31% increased risk of prostate cancer overall and a 63% increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer in particular. This announcement was made at the 27th Annual Congress of the European Association of Urology (February 2012).

One thing different about this study versus previous ones that looked at pain killer use and prostate cancer is the data came from a prescription database rather than reliance on self-reports of NSAID use, and also did not include use of over-the-counter NSAIDs.  The researchers believe the increased risk in prostate cancer seen in their study was caused by the conditions for which the pain killers were prescribed.

How did the researchers come to that conclusion? Teemu J. Murtola, MD, and his team from the University of Tampere School of Medicine, reviewed data on all newly diagnosed cases of prostate cancer in Finland from the period 1995 to 2002 and matched them with 24,657 controls. They also looked at a national prescription database and found which men had used NSAIDs, how much they used, and estimated the tendency to use the drugs for certain conditions, including benign prostatic hyperplasia, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

What the researchers found was that pain killer use increases risk of prostate cancer overall and of aggressive prostate cancer specifically in men. But that’s not all.

According to Dr. Murtola, “Because all NSAIDs in our study were prescribed by a physician, all users for certain had an indication for the usage.” This led the team to believe the medication use was often for “some chronic condition possibly associated with chronic systemic inflammation.”

Therefore, the men in this study differed from those in previous studies in which most NSAID users had tended to use over-the-counter NSAIDS for the short-term. Analysis of all this information resulted in the authors of the study to conclude that the increased risk of prostate cancer overall and aggressive prostate cancer in particular was associated with the underlying causes for which the NSAIDs were prescribed and not the direct use of the NSAIDs themselves.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.