Does an aspirin-a-day keep skin cancer away?

Seems amazing, but new research from Denmark suggests that people who regularly use aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs- Alleve, Motrin, etc.) have a reduced risk for certain skin cancers – particularly squamous cell carcinomas  and malignant melanomas.  The reduction in cancer risk was linked to the duration of NSAID use and total dosage.

These authors discovered these findings by reviewing NSAID use in patients with verified skin cancers from the Danish cancer registry between 1991 and 2008.

Among long-term, high-dose NSAID users, the risk reduction was 46% for melanoma (MM), 35% for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and 17% for basal cell carcinoma.  Both aspirin and older non-selective NSAIDs protected against SCC and MM, but the newer COX-2 inhibitors did not protect against melanoma.  The research was published online in the May issue of Cancer.

Editor’s note:  These drugs are inexpensive and skin cancer incidence continues to rise.  While taking a few pills regularly seems like a promising idea to prevent a difficult public health problem, the drugs also have side effects – particularly GI effects like peptic ulcer and bleeding.  We don’t yet know which NSAIDs are the most effective, and what dose gives the best ratio of high benefit and low side effect profiles.  Stay tuned.

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