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Aspirin May Reduce Melanoma Risk in Women

Risk cut by about 20% in users versus non-users (Mar. 11)

A new study has found that women who take aspirin have a reduced risk of developing melanoma — and that the longer they take it, the lower the risk. The findings suggest that aspirin’s anti-inflammatory effects may help protect against this type of skin cancer. The study was published online in Cancer.

In the Women’s Health Initiative, researchers observed U.S. women aged 50 to 79 years for an average of 12 years and noted which individuals developed cancer. At the beginning of the study, the women were asked which medications they took, what they ate, and what activities they performed.

When Jean Tang, MD, PhD, and her colleagues analyzed available data from 59,806 Caucasian women in the study, they found that the women who took more aspirin were less likely to develop melanoma skin cancer during the 12 years of follow up. Overall, women who used aspirin had a 21% lower risk of melanoma compared with non-users. Each incremental increase in the duration of aspirin use (less than 1 year of use; 1 to 4 years of use; and 5 or more years of use) was associated with an 11% lower risk of melanoma. Thus, women who used aspirin for 5 or more years had a 30% lower melanoma risk compared with women who did not use aspirin.

The researchers controlled for differences in pigmentation, tanning practices, sunscreen use, and other factors that may affect the risk of skin cancer.

“Aspirin works by reducing inflammation, and this may be why using aspirin may lower your risk of developing melanoma,” Tang said. Other pain medications, such as acetaminophen, did not lower women’s melanoma risk.

In Tang’s opinion, the new findings support the design of a clinical trial to directly test whether aspirin can be taken to prevent melanoma.

Source: Wiley; March 11, 2013.

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