From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published May 29, 2012 11:26 AM

Protect Against Skin Cancer with Painkillers

For many Americans this Memorial Day, it was the first real opportunity to get their skin fried under the sun. Of course, it is widely known that skin cancer caused by excessive exposure to solar radiation is perhaps the world's most preventable disease. Most people realize this and take appropriate measures to protect themselves. A new study has just come out that adds another weapon to the arsenal in the war against skin cancer. Scientists from the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark have found that aspirin and similar painkillers can protect against this dreaded disease.


The study was led by Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir, BSc of Aarhus University Hospital. Along with her colleagues, she hypothesized that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) would decrease the risk of three major types of skin cancer. These include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

Types of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, plus other prescription and non-prescription drugs.

Looking at medical records from northern Denmark from 1991 to 2009, the researchers quantified the number of diagnoses of the three types of skin cancers. For basal cell carcinoma there were 13,316 cases, 1,974 cases for squamous cell carcinoma, and 3,242 cases for malignant melanoma.

These cases were then compared against information from these patients, including prescription drug data. The resulting information was then compared against similar information from 178,655 patients who did not have skin cancer.

They found that patients who filled more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs were 15 percent less likely for developing squamous cell carcinoma, and 13 percent less likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who filled only two or fewer prescriptions for NSAIDs. This is especially true for patients who had taken the medication for seven or more years at high intensity.

In general, this correlation does not exist for basal cell carcinoma. However, the researchers found that patients have a 15-21 percent reduced risk of developing this type of cancer on less-exposed sites (areas of the body not usually exposed to the sun) when taking NSAIDs for a long term or at high intensity.

The researchers hope that this study will inspire more research on skin cancer prevention.

For more information, go to Aarhus University Research

Cancer cell image via Shutterstock

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