A new study published in the May 29, 2012 issue of the journal Cancer, researchers from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark found people who took painkillers, like Aspirin or ibuprofen long-term, seemed to have a lower risk for skin cancer.
The researchers analyzed the medical and prescription records of people in northern Denmark from 1991 through 2009 and found that 18,000 of the 200,000 participants had been diagnosed with of one of three types of skin cancer. Many of the patients were taking the painkillers for heart conditions or arthritis.
The study focused on the three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Those who filled at least two prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) had a 15 percent lower risk of the skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and a 13 percent lower risk of melanoma.
Lead researcher Sigrún Alba Jóhannesdóttir, BSc, at the Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark told Fox News, “Previous studies suggest that NSAIDs decrease the risk of some cancer types, especially colorectal cancer. Also, some studies exist on the association between NSAIDs and skin cancer in specific, and they largely support a protective effect. Our study had advantages in the methods used compared with previous studies. We were able to investigate various types and patterns of NSAID use in the general population, we used validated registry data, and we used reliable prescription data collected before cancer diagnosis instead of relying on patients recalling their use.”
“We were not able to determine the minimal daily or weekly doses needed, however, we did find that the protective effect was greatest when used frequently and over a long time period (over 7 years). Other studies need to investigate details of minimal dose and length of treatment,” Jóhannesdóttir said.
The painkillers are thought to counter skin cancer growth by suppressing inflammatory pathways and stimulating tumors’ ability to expand and develop blood supplies.
The authors from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, wrote in the study, “Given the high skin cancer incidence and the widespread and frequent use of NSAIDs, a preventive effect of these agents may have important public health implications.”
To prevent skin cancer you still need to limit sun exposure, use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and avoid indoor tanning.
Hazel Nunn of Cancer Research UK told BBC, “There is mounting evidence that aspirin does reduce the risk of some cancers, but it’s too soon to say if this includes skin cancer. Aspirin can have serious side effects, so it’s important to talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits if you’re thinking of taking it regularly.”