MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The prescription painkiller Celebrex might help prevent non-melanoma skin cancers, a small study suggests.
But one expert was quick to note that the drug, which is most commonly used to counter the pain of arthritis, has been linked in some studies to an increase in the risk for cardiovascular problems. So it isn't yet clear that Celebrex (celecoxib) is an ideal choice to prevent cancers that could be treated by other means.
"We have a lot of different treatments for non-melanoma skin cancers," noted Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "I would want more information regarding the mechanism of action of Celebrex, because of the other risks," she said.
The report, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Pfizer, the maker of Celebrex, is published in the Nov. 29 online edition and the Dec. 15 print issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Non-melanoma skin cancers are common, comprising "the most prevalent malignancies in the United States with an incidence equivalent to all other cancers combined," according to study lead author Dr. Craig A. Elmets, a professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. These tumors include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas of the skin, which are typically linked to overexposure to UV rays from the sun or indoor tanning booths.
Currently, there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved agents for the prevention of non-melanoma skin cancers, although sunscreens are widely recommended for this purpose, Elmets said. "However, even sunscreens are only modestly effective at preventing non-melanoma skin cancers. The demonstration that celecoxib can prevent these common malignancies heralds an entirely new approach for the prevention of these common malignancies," he said.
For the study, E
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