Research published in Cancer, a peer-review journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests an intake of aspirin may reduce the risk of developing melanoma (skin cancer). The longer aspirin is taken, the lower the risk.
The Women’s Health Initiative research led by Jean Tang MD, PhD, of Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, analyzed data on nearly 60,000 US Caucasian women aged 50 to 79 years. The women were surveyed on what medications they took and what diets and activities they adhered to. Habits such as tanning practices and sunscreen use were accounted for.
Participants were re-evaluated 12 years later to assess those who had developed cancer. Women who took aspirin regularly had a 21 percent lower risk of melanoma compared to non-aspirin users.
An increase in duration of aspirin taking was linked to an 11 percent lower risk of melanoma. Using the pain reliever for five years or more had a 30 percent lowering effect.
The findings suggest that aspirin’s anti-inflammatory effects may help protect against this type of skin cancer. Not all pain relievers or fever reducing medication have the same impact on melanoma risk.
Melanoma, one of the deadliest of skin diseases, is caused by changes in cells called melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment called melanin. Melanin is a photochemical which is responsible for the color or pigmentation of skin, hair, and eyes.
When people encounter prolonged exposure to the sun, the melanin responds to the UV and reacts. This results in a tan or burn. However, UV rays can cause mutations in the melanocytes (melanin-producing skin cells) creating melanoma.
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells and is not always isolated to one part of the body. Melanoma originates as a single skin tumor, which over time can persist and metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, and brain.
Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a salicylate drug often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as an antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. Aspirin was first isolated by Felix Hoffmann, a chemist with the German company Bayer in 1897.
Regular use of aspirin should be discussed with a physician beforehand, as taking an excess of any drug may have adverse, unwanted side effects. Individuals with blood clotting issues should be especially careful and seek the advice of a medical professional first as aspirin can inhibit coagulation.
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