Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and aspirin use and the risk of head and neck cancer: a systematic review

Jessica C. Wilson*, Lesley A. Anderson, Liam J. Murray, Carmel M. Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
214 Downloads (Pure)


Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been associated with a reduced risk of several cancers. This is thought to be through the inhibitory action on the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme, COX-2. Evidence for NSAIDs preventing head and neck cancer (HNC) is conflicting. We conducted a systematic literature review to investigate the association between NSAID/aspirin use and risk of head and neck cancer (HNC).

MEDLINE, EMBASE, PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Web of Science were systematically searched using terms for NSAIDs/aspirin, HNC, and observational/intervention study designs to identify studies published by December 2009.

Of 9,268 articles identified, two population-based prescribing database studies and three case–control studies met the selection criteria. The studies investigated different HNC sites. Only one study found a significant protective association of aspirin use with HNC risk (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.58–0.96), and one showed a significantly increased risk of oral/oropharyngeal cancer with non-low-dose aspirin NSAID use (OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.8–6.7). Many of the studies identified lacked information on important confounding factors.

No definitive conclusion on the effect of NSAIDs/aspirin on HNC risk was possible. Aspirin may protect against HNC, although further robust large-scale studies are required to clarify any possible association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-810
JournalCancer Causes & Control: an international journal of studies of cancer in human populations
Issue number5
Early online date17 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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