Aspirin, Lower Risk of

Breast Cancer Linked

MILWAUKEE -- Women can cut their risk of breast cancer by as much as half by regularly taking aspirin or ibuprofen, the nation's largest women's health study suggests. A cancer-preventing benefit was seen when women took normal doses of aspirin or ibuprofen at least three times a week. No benefit was seen with acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol.

Experts say more study is needed to prove a benefit, but that taking such pain pills could be a simple preventive measure and one of the few things women can do to lower their odds of getting a disease that is the No. 2 cancer killer in women.

"This is the first evidence that there's a relatively safe, inexpensive medicine that might reduce the risk of breast cancer," said Patrick Remington, associate director of the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the research.

The report was released this week by the American Association for Cancer Research. Evidence has been mounting that aspirin can cut the risk of colon and several other cancers by 20 percent to 30 percent, but the picture has been murkier for breast cancer. Fifteen earlier studies produced mixed results.

The new research involved more than 80,000 of the 162,000 women ages 50 to 79 in the federally funded Women's Health Initiative.

Hospital Patients Are

Going Home Sooner

WASHINGTON -- Hospital patients are being sent home much sooner, thanks in part to better surgical techniques and improved drugs, U.S. government statisticians reported yesterday.

Patients now stay in the hospital for an average of just under five days compared with nearly eight days in 1970, the National Center for Health Statistics said.

"Over the past three decades, the average length of a hospital stay dropped for all patients, except children, with the most dramatic decrease experienced by elderly patients whose hospital stay in 2001 (5.8 days) was less than half of what it had been in 1970 (12.6 days)," the NCHS said. The center surveys 500 U.S. hospitals every year.

In 2001, it found that 32.7 million patients stayed in U.S. hospitals. Most were there for three days or less, and only 16 percent stayed for longer than a week.

The study attributed the decline to pressures to reduce costs and medical advances such as better anesthesia, less invasive surgical methods, the growth of outpatient surgery and better pain-relief medications.

Hardening of Arteries

Linked to Vein Clots

For the first time, researchers have linked the hardening of arteries to blood clots in veins, a finding that could spur new research in the effort to prevent the blockages that kill thousands of people each year.

Italian researchers found that patients hospitalized with unexplained deep-vein clots were nearly 21/2 times more likely to also have hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, than patients with deep-vein clots attributed to known health problems. The doctors concluded that either hardening of the arteries can induce blood clots in veins or the two conditions share common risk factors.

"I favor the first hypothesis," said Paolo Prandoni, the lead researcher and an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Padua Medical School. He said scientists had not suspected the link.

The study is reported in today's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters