Want to decrease your chance of developing a deadly skin cancer? The solution could already be hiding in your medicine cabinet. According to a recent study, women who regularly take aspirin have a 21 percent lower risk of developing melanoma than those who do not take the drug.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, was the largest study ever to explore new ways to prevent melanoma. The study focused on the data of roughly 60,000 women ages 50-79 who volunteered to provide information about their lives (such as activity, diet, medication and sun exposure history) for a period of 12 years.
The researchers found that women who took aspirin decreased their risk of developing melanoma by an average of 21 percent. Moreover, investigators found that the protective effect of aspirin also increased over time, with patients demonstrating an 11 percent risk reduction at one year, a 22 percent risk reduction between one and four years, and up to a 30 percent risk reduction at five years or more. These results held true for aspirin use only and did not apply to other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (known as NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
“There’s a lot of excitement about this because aspirin has already been shown to have protective effects on cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in women,” said senior author Jean Tang, MD, PhD, in a press release. “This is one more piece of the prevention puzzle.”
So how does it work? Tang said one way aspirin may prevent melanoma is through its anti-inflammatory effects. These effects are why aspirin may also prevent heart attacks and stroke, since both are the result of arteries becoming blocked and unable to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart and brain. Aspirin combats the effect of platelets, the blood cells that help blood clot, therefore reducing the number of heart attacks and strokes.
While the results sound promising, Tang isn’t ready to say an aspirin a day will keep melanoma away. Tang noted that it is still unknown how much aspirin should be taken and for how long.
Whatever the case may be, doctors agree that aspirin use still doesn’t replace using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. As warmer weather approaches, be sure to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of 30 or higher.