May 30, 2012

Painkillers May Protect Against Skin Cancer

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — It´s no secret that people who double up on sunscreen get more protection from the sun, but a new study suggests that those who frequently take painkillers may receive some of the same benefits.

Sigrún Alba Jóhannesdóttir, BSc, of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and her colleagues conducted a study to see if taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, i.e. aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) would decrease the risk of three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

They analyzed northern Denmark medical records from 1991 through 2009 and identified 1,974 diagnoses of squamous cell carcinoma, 13,316 diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma, and 3,242 diagnoses of malignant melanoma. They compared that patient information, including prescription data, with information from 178,655 individuals without skin cancer.

They found that individuals who filled more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs had a 15% decreased risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma and 13% decreased risk for developing malignant melanoma when compared with those who filled two or fewer prescriptions for medications, especially when the drugs were taken for seven or more years or at a high intensity. Individuals who took NSAIDs did not appear to gain a generally reduced risk from developing basal cell carcinoma, although they had a 15 % and 21% reduced risk of developing this kind of cancer on less-exposed sites (areas other than the head or neck) when taken long term or at a high intensity, respectively.

"We hope that the potential cancer-protective effect of NSAIDs will inspire more research on skin cancer prevention," Ms. Jóhannesdóttir was quoted as saying. "Also, this potential cancer-protective effect should be taken into account when discussing benefits and harms of NSAID use."

Source: CANCER, May 2012