Study: NSAIDs, aspirin, and acetaminophen may all reduce risk for certain skin cancers

A big new study says common pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can cut the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.

On NBC Nightly News, chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman, MD, explained, “In a Danish study published in ‘Cancer,’ over 18,000 people who took these drugs for several years had decreased cancer rates of malignant melanoma.”

Investigators found that people taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) “were less likely to develop skin cancer – including squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma – especially when they took the drugs for at least seven years or used them at least twice a week,” the Time “Healthland” blog reports.

HealthDay points out, however, that “the same dynamic was generally not seen with regards to basal cell carcinoma.”

However, “taking NSAIDs for long periods of time, and at relatively high doses, was associated with a reduced risk (between 15 and 21 percent), specifically for basal cell cases that manifested in skin regions that typically experience relatively little sun exposure (areas other than the neck or head).”

Focusing not just on NSAIDs, the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog explains that “acetaminophen use was also linked” by the study “to a reduction in basal cell carcinomas and malignant melanoma use. If the cancer-protection effect is not (or not only) caused by inhibiting Cox-1 and Cox-2, that would” fit with the theory that “cancer reduction could be linked to … suppression of Cox-enzyme activity.”

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