Up to 3,000 women with breast cancer are to be recruited for a study to find out if a history of taking aspirin has helped to reduce the spread of the disease, it emerged yesterday.
The study follows recent findings showing that women prescribed prescription-dose aspirin for other medical conditions before the cancer diagnosis were less likely to suffer a spread of the disease to the lymph-nodes.
The lymph-nodes found throughout the body contain white blood cells that help to fight infection.
The Irish Cancer Society said yesterday that the "next step in this research will be to investigate how aspirin may have this effect."
It added: "To answer this question, Irish Cancer Society BREAST-PREDICT researchers are looking to gather information on exposure to this medicine from almost 3,000 breast cancer patients around the country."
Head of research Dr Sinead Walsh said that "patients participating in this study will be asked to answer some questions on their recent exposure to aspirin, information which can then be analysed by researchers.
"Scientists will also carry out laboratory-based studies to examine the mechanisms by which this drug might act to reduce the risk of breast cancer spreading."
The charity said BREAST-PREDICT researchers now have access to tumour and serum samples from over 1,000 breast cancer patients for their studies.
"These samples can be used to improve understanding of how the individual characteristics of each tumour can dictate how likely a patient is to experience a recurrence, or how responsive they will be to a particular treatment."
Researchers who carried out the original study advised women not to start taking aspirin regularly because of its potential side effects. They still need to identify exactly how it may prevent the spread of cancer, which women would benefit and the types of cancer involved.
Meanwhile, the Marie Keating Foundation announced it is launching a programme for schools to highlight how to prevent the disease. The charity said 82 new cases of cancer are diagnosed daily.
Liz Yeates, the foundation's director of public affairs, said that "while the prevalence of cancer is on the increase, once detected early, the outcomes are also much more positive thanks to new treatments and therapies.
"The new schools programme, with curriculum-linked lesson plans, means that we can give young people the information they need to understand cancer."