Headaches arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the only thing that over-the-counter pain meds can help crush: Regular aspirin use may help curb the risk of melanoma for women, according to an analysis of data from the Women's Health Initiative. The study, published inÃ‚Â CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society,Ã‚Â was the largest ever to explore ways to reduce melanoma risk. The results suggest that the longer you take aspirin on a regular basis, the more you slash your risk.
For the study, researchers recruited nearly 60,000 Caucasian women aged 50 to 79 and followed them for 12 years, noting which developed skin cancer and which didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. They defined regular aspirin use as taking at least two a week. The women who fell into this category averaged a 21 percent lower risk of melanoma than those who didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t pop the pills. Women who had been taking aspirin for one year saw an 11 percent risk reduction, while those who had been taking it for one to four years saw a 22 percent risk reduction, and those who had been taking it for five or more years saw a 30 percent risk reduction. Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the same effect, and neither did acetaminophen.
The study controlled for variations in skin pigmentation, tanning practices, sunscreen use, and other factors that may affect skin cancer risk.
WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s behind the risk reduction? Researchers think it may be aspirinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anti-inflammatory properties since inflammation and cancer cell growth are linked. Of course, that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean you can ditch your sunscreen and just start popping aspirin instead. The FDA warns that long-term aspirin use is linked to side effectsÃ‚Â such as, stomach bleeding, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, and other kinds of strokes. A recent study also suggests that there may be a correlation between prolonged aspirin use and vision loss.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“These results are very interesting and provocative, but the type of study this is shows a strong correlationÃ¢â‚¬”it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t prove causation,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Jean Y. Tang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford UniversityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s School of Medicine.Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Because of the side effects, it would be foolish to recommend aspirin for everyone."
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re at high risk for skin cancerÃ¢â‚¬”i.e., youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had a lot of sunburns in the past or may have even had skin cancer removedÃ¢â‚¬”it canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hurt to see your doctor and assess whether you should add regular aspirin usage to your skin health arsenal. Regardless, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good idea to stay diligent when it comes to using SPF, avoiding tanning beds, and limiting excessive sun exposure.
Additional reporting by Marygrace Taylor