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Aspirin use for five years tied to 30 percent reduction in melanoma risk

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A new study has linked aspirin use to a reduced risk of contracting the most deadly of all skin cancers, melanoma. The study determined that those who used aspirin for more than five years - chiefly women, had their melanoma risk reduced by as much as 30 percent. However, it must be pointed out the report relied on self-reports of aspirin use, failing to mention the family history of melanoma and hair color -- redheads have always had a higher risk for skin cancer.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A study of nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women found those who used aspirin regularly were 21 percent less likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.

Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer, and melanoma its most serious form, accounting for less than five percent of all skin cancers (an estimated 77,000 new cases in the United States this year) but the majority of deaths (more than 9,000). Protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays is the main way to prevent skin cancer.

"These findings suggest that aspirin may have a chemo-preventive effect against the development of melanoma," study author Dr. Jean Tang of Stanford University School of Medicine's Cancer Institute wrote in the journal Cancer. "Further clinical investigation is warranted."

It must be reiterated that the study did not draw a conclusion that aspirin prevented melanoma. The study only found that twice-weekly use was associated with a decreased risk among Caucasian women in their fifties, sixties and seventies.

"This is one of many studies looking at the relationship between aspirin use and melanoma," ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser says. "Some have found an association between taking aspirin and having a lower risk of melanoma and some have not."

An ancient remedy dating back to 400 B.C., people used a primitive form of salicin-containing willow tree bark to treat pain and inflammation. Aspirin also interferes with blood-clotting thromboxanes, leading some people take a daily dose to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The new study adds to mounting evidence that the over-the-counter staple may help prevent cancers of the colon, liver, breasts, lungs and skin.

A study last year found that men and women who used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as aspirin were 15 percent less likely to develop the non-melanoma skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma, and 13 percent less likely to develop malignant melanoma.

"This study builds on our knowledge of these medications being protective for the skin as well," Dr. Josh Zeichner, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center says. "We just don't yet know enough to make definite conclusions," Zeichner adds.

Experts say it's too soon to recommend aspirin for skin cancer prevention. "The jury is still out," Besser says. "It's so important for people to remember that although you can buy aspirin over the counter, it is a real drug with significant side effects. It can increase your risk of having a stomach ulcer or a gastrointestinal bleed.

"Right now the best way to prevent skin cancer is to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and avoid of the sun between peak hours," he said.

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