March 20, 2013
Review Study Finds Link Between Aspirin Use, Lower
Risk of Melanoma

Palo Alto, CA—Using aspirin appears to reduce women’s risk of developing melanoma, according to a new study using data from the Women’s Health Initiative.

The study, published online by the journal Cancer, notes that the longer acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) is used, the lower the melanoma risk becomes. Study authors speculate that the reduced risk of skin cancer could be related to aspirin’s anti-inflammatory effects.

“Aspirin works by reducing inflammation and this may be why using aspirin may lower your risk of developing melanoma,” said lead author Jean Tang MD, PhD, of Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto.

At the beginning of the Women’s Health Initiative, in which researchers observed U.S. women aged 50 to 79 years for an average of 12 years, participants were asked what medications they took, what foods they ate and what activities they performed. Development of diseases, such as cancer, was tracked over the study.

Analyzing available data from 59,806 Caucasian women in the study, study authors identified 548 cases of melanoma and found that women who took aspirin were 21% less likely to develop melanoma skin cancer overall during the 12 years of follow up, compared to nonusers.

Each incremental increase in duration of aspirin use—less than 1 year of use, 1 to 4 years of use, and 5 or more years of use—was associated with an 11% lower risk of melanoma, so that women who used aspirin for 5 or more years had a 30% lower melanoma risk than women who did not take the drug.

Differences in pigmentation, tanning practices, sunscreen use, and other factors that could affect skin cancer risk were taken into account during the review.

Previous studies have associated aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with decreased risk of gastric, colorectal, and breast cancer, but reports of their effect on melanoma have been inconsistent.

Tang and her coauthors called for a clinical trial to directly test whether aspirin can be taken to prevent melanoma.

“Postmenopausal women who used ASA had a significantly lower risk of melanoma, and longer duration of ASA use was associated with greater protection,” according to the report. “Although this study was limited by the observational design and self-report of NSAID use, the findings suggest that ASA may have a chemopreventive effect against the development of melanoma and warrant further clinical investigation.”

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect