Skin Cancer Protection with Aspirin

Melanoma skin cancer rates lower in women who took aspirin

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Aspirin has been making headlines as a way to reduce the risk for heart trouble and maybe even certain forms of cancer. But aspirin’s side effects may outweigh the benefits.

A recent study followed a large group of post-menopausal women for 12 years to see if taking over-the-counter pain relievers would lower the risk of developing melanoma-type skin cancer.

The study results showed taking aspirin daily did lower the risk of developing melanoma.

However, other studies have shown negative health consequences of daily aspirin therapy.

"Taking daily aspirin? Speak with a pharmacist."

Jean Tang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in California, worked with a team of scientists to investigate the impact of aspirin on melanoma-type skin cancer.

For the study, 59,806 post-menopausal white women between the ages of 50 and 79 were followed for 12 years. The women were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Each participant reported use of aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, and/or acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol).

Over the course of 12 years, 548 cases of melanoma were diagnosed. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Women who used aspirin had a 21 percent lower risk of developing melanoma than women who did not take aspirin. As much as a 30 percent lower risk was seen in women who took aspirin for five years or longer.

The authors concluded that “Aspirin works by reducing inflammation and this may be why using aspirin may lower your risk of developing melanoma,” said Dr. Tang in a press release.

However, a Mayo clinic report warns against daily aspirin use without a doctor’s supervision.

Side effects from daily aspirin include:

  • Bleeding or clotting disorders, which can result in a stroke from a burst blood vessel
  • Aspirin allergy, which can cause asthma
  • Bleeding stomach ulcers
  • Hearing loss

Starting and stopping daily aspirin therapy without a doctor’s supervision can also be dangerous. Aspirin can act as a blood thinner, so stopping its use can change the way blood flows throughout the body.

It can be dangerous to drink alcohol while taking aspirin, as both substances can cause stomach bleeding.

In addition, aspirin can have a negative interaction with many other medications and nutritional supplements.

While aspirin has been shown to treat various medical conditions, it should not be taken on a regular basis before talking to a doctor.

This study was published in March in Cancer.

The Women’s Health Initiative, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Health and Human Services and two academic awards provided funding for this project. Dr. Tang declared that she has consulted for Genentech.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 10, 2013
Last Updated:
March 17, 2013