Studies have shown that long-term use of "NSAID" pain relievers, such as aspirin and Motrin, appears to reduce the risk of oral cancer, but at the same time increase the odds of dying from heart attack or stroke.

NSAIDs work by blocking so-called "COX" enzymes. These enzymes appear to play a role in oral cancer, and therefore blocking them with an NSAID might have a beneficial effect. The new findings are based on a comparison of NSAID use between 454 heavy smokers with oral cancer and 454 similar smokers without cancer. NSAID use cut the risk of oral cancer by 53 percent, whereas use of acetaminophen, did not have a significant effect. Moreover, the reduction in risk tended to increase with duration of NSAID.

On the other hand, long-term use of NSAIDs raised the risk of death from heart attack or stroke but not acetaminophen.

Despite the risks, scientists are still predicting a future for NSAIDs in preventing oral cancer. If patients are using NSAID for a long time, no matter the indication, they need to be closely monitored for heart problems.