Aspirin Reduces Risk of Melanoma in Women

Women who regularly take aspirin have a reduced risk of developing melanoma, according to the results of a study published in Cancer.[1] What’s more—the longer they take the aspirin, the lower the risk.

Of the more than one million new diagnoses of skin cancer each year, roughly 68,000 involve melanoma. More than 8,000 people die of melanoma each year in the United States. What makes melanoma so dangerous is that it is more likely than other types of skin cancer to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Although advances have been made in melanoma treatment, the disease continues to be challenging to control. As a result, prevention of melanoma remains an important goal.

Previous studies have indicated that NSAIDs might offer a protective benefit against cancer, including a recent study that found that a daily aspirin could reduce cancer incidence and mortality.[2] However, the impact of NSAIDs on the risk of melanoma has been inconsistent.

Researchers analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study (OS). They assessed aspirin use as well as the use of non-aspirin NSAIDs among 59,806 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 years.

During a median follow-up of 12 years, there were 548 confirmed melanoma cases among the women. The study analysis indicated that women who took aspirin regularly had a 21 percent reduced risk of melanoma compared to non-aspirin users. Aspirin’s protective effect increased over time—the researchers found that there was an 11 percent reduced risk at one year, a 21 percent reduced risk between one and four years, and as much as a 30 percent reduced risk at five years and beyond. The use of non-aspirin NSAIDs was not associated with reduced melanoma risk.

The researchers concluded that postmenopausal women who regularly took aspirin had a significantly lower risk of melanoma. They speculate that aspirin might have a chemopreventive effect against the development of melanoma. Further research is warranted.

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[1] Gamba CA, Swetter SM, Stefanick ML, et al. Aspirin is associated with lower melanoma risk among postmenopausal Caucasian women. Cancer. Published early online March 11, 2013: DOI: 10.1002/cncr.27817.

[2] Rothwell PM, Price JF, Fowkes FGR et al. Short-term effects of daily aspirin on cancer incidence, mortality, and non-vascular death: analysis of the time course of risks and benefits n 51 randomised controlled trials. Lancet. Early online publication March 21, 2012.

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