Common Painkillers May Reduce Skin Cancer Risk, Study Finds

Aspirin, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers may help protect against skin cancer, according to a study published in the journal Cancer. Aspirin is available without a prescription at many online pharmacies.

Researchers found that people taking aspirin regularly were much more likely not to get squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma, two of the most common and dangerous forms of skin cancer.

The study looked at nearly 200,000 people in Denmark. Approximately 18,000 of the 200,000 had been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, or basal cell carcinoma. Then they looked at medical and prescription records to track prescriptions of aspirin and other NSAIDs.

The researchers found that people who were prescribed more than two NSAIDs were 15 percent less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 13 percent less likely to develop malignant melanoma.

The study also found that the higher the dose and the longer a person was on the medication, the lower the risk of developing the two types of cancer.

The researchers did not find a lower overall risk for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. But they did find that taking the drugs lowered the risk in parts of the body other than the head and neck for those that took high doses and took the medications over a long period of time.

These anti-inflammatory painkillers may prevent the development of cancer by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes, which are involved in carcinogenesis.

The scientists looked at skin cancer records in northern Denmark from 1991 through 2009 and compared the rates of skin cancer in people who took one or more of these drugs with those who didn’t. The scientists are from Aarhus University Hospital, the Cancer Prevention Institute in Fremont, Calif., and the Stanford University School of Medicine.