An analysis of more than 60,000 women nationwide by the Women’s Health Initiative has shown that those who take aspirin on a regular basis reduced their risk of developing malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer).
“Aspirin has already been shown to have protective effects on cardiovascular disease and colon cancer in women,” noted Dr. Jean Tang of California’s Stanford University, and a senior author on this study. “We now have evidence that it can reduce the melanoma risk by an average of 21%, particularly in white women over the age of 50. People of color were excluded, although research has shown that darker complexions do not provide immunity to melanoma.
At the fifth year, she noted the risk reduction rose to 30%.
Despite the positive findings, however, the Stanford researchers are not endorsing widespread use of aspirin as a preventative for skin cancer because they could not say how much should be taken since the study involved women who consumed a wide range of doses (none of them the low dose version). In addition, not all the participants took aspirin daily.
“Nothing surprises me about aspirin,” stated Dr. Basil Rigas dean of clinical affairs at Stony Brook University (who was not involved in the study).
“Aspirin is a prototypical anti-inflammatory drug. What links cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s is inflammation,” he continued. “So all diseases that have roots in inflammation may be amenable to the preventative effects of aspirin. It is a very talented compound.”
He also added that further studies are needed to better understand how “pennies-per-dose” medication acts as a melanoma preventative.
While melanomas can develop anywhere, they are usually found on parts of the body most exposed to prolonged sunlight. An estimated 76,250 will be diagnosed this year alone according to the American Cancer Society.