Painkillers linked to reduced skin cancer risk

tabletsNew research suggests that regularly taking common painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen could help to reduce the risk of developing a form of skin cancer.

An Australian analysis into nine past studies found that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were effective in decreasing the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 18%. This kind of cancer is the second most common type of skin cancer in the UK, with the major risk coming from sun exposure and excessive use of tanning beds.

NSAIDs include over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as prescription medication that Medical Specialists® Pharmacy provide for suitable patients – celecoxib, diclofenac and naproxen.

Previous studies into the drugs have uncovered evidence to show they can be useful in also decreasing the risk of developing other cancers, such as colon cancer.

Health experts have previously suggest that NSAIDs could be beneficial in helping to boost protection against skin cancer, but definitive evidence for the theory has been scarce.

Therefore, researchers involved in the new analysis of nine previous studies assessed usage of NSAIDs against the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

Reporting their findings in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the researchers explained that taking any NSAID was associated with an 18% lesser risk of developing the cancer, and taking NSAIDs other than aspirin could lead to a 15% decreased risk.

These painkillers “have potential as part of a skin cancer-prevention strategy,” said review co-author Catherine Olsen, a senior research officer with QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

However, there is still an uncertainty regarding NSAIDs and skin cancer. For example, different people have varying degrees of sun exposure, will be taking different doses of their particular drug, resulting in accuracy of findings being debatable.

Some are of the belief that NSAIDs such as diclofenac could help to prevent skin cancer due to the fact they inhibit an enzyme named COX-2, linked to tumour development. A higher reduced risk was found with people taking NSAIDs that had either pre-cancerous growths or a history of skin cancer, which means the drugs could be considered as a preventative option for certain people in the future.

Olsen and others aren’t quite ready to advise people to start popping NSAIDs though just yet to avert the onset of skin cancer, citing that the drugs have been linked to some risks of their own.

“Don’t rely on aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to protect your skin,” commented Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“The best treatment is primary prevention,” he said, advising people to use sunscreen, sun-protective clothing and taking advantage of shade.

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