Painkillers may reduce skin cancer risk

Painkillers may reduce skin cancer risk

News and Articles
Jun 1 2012

By Mark Cowen

Commonly used painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may reduce the risk for skin cancer, study results suggest.

“We hope that the potential cancer-protective effect of NSAIDs will inspire more research on skin cancer prevention,” said lead researcher Dr Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir (Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark) in a press statement.

“Also, this potential cancer-protective effect should be taken into account when discussing benefits and harms of NSAID use.”

Writing in Cancer, the team explains that previous studies have shown that NSAIDs may protect against the development of bowel cancer, possibly by preventing the release of body chemicals linked to cancer development.

To investigate whether these benefits extend to skin cancer, the researchers studied the medical records of more than 18,000 patients who developed one of the three main types of skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, or malignant melanoma) between 1991 and 2009.

The previous use of NSAIDs among these patients was compared with that in more than 178,000 people from the general population without skin cancer.

The researchers found that people who had filled more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs were 15% less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 13% less likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who filled two or fewer prescriptions for these medications.

The protective effect of NSAIDs against skin cancer was particularly strong when these drugs were taken for at least 7 years or taken at high doses.

NSAID use was not associated with an overall reduced risk for basal cell carcinoma.

Writing in Cancer, Dr Johannesdottir and team conclude: “The current results indicated that NSAID use may decrease the risk of squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.”

They add: “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.”

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