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Aspirin may help prevent skin cancer: Study

Press Trust of India  |  London 

A new study involving nearly 200,000 people found that people who take aspirins or similar painkillers regularly cut their likelihood of developing skin cancer, including the most deadly malignant melanoma, by about 15 per cent.

However, experts believe using sunscreen and avoiding too much sun are still the best ways to prevent skin cancer, the BBC reported.

In the study, a team from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark looked at about 200,000 participants of whom around 18,000 had been diagnosed with of one of three types of skin cancer -- basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or the rarer but more dangerous malignant melanoma.

They analysed the medical data of the study participants to calculate how many had been prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen over an eight-year period. Many were taking them for heart conditions or arthritis.

The researchers found that those who were more frequently prescribed NSAIDs were less likely to have skin cancer.

And the higher the dose and the longer a person had been on the medication, the greater the protective effect, they found.

Individuals with more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs had a 15 per cent decreased risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 13 per cent lower risk of malignant melanoma.

NSAIDs did not appear to lower the overall risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common and least aggressive type of skin cancer. But they did cut the risk of developing the cancer on certain parts of the body other than the head and neck, the researchers said.

However, they stressed that more research is needed to confirm and further explain their findings published in the journal Cancer.

Studies in animals suggested NSAIDs may block the growth of early pre-cancerous skin lesions, but it's not yet clear if this is also the case in humans. Scientists already suspect that these drugs may protect against many other cancers, including bowel cancer. (More)

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First Published: Tue, May 29 2012. 16:25 IST