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Common Painkillers May Help Prevent Skin Cancer: Study
Date:5/29/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- which include medicine cabinet staples such as aspirin, Motrin and Aleve -- appears to significantly lower the risk for developing several major forms of skin cancer, a new Danish study reveals.

What's more, the apparent protective impact of both prescription and nonprescription NSAIDs on skin cancer risk seems to be stronger the longer someone takes them.

Over-the-counter NSAIDs are used to control pain, fever and swelling. NSAIDs also include prescription medicines called COX-2 enzyme inhibitors, such as Celebrex (celecoxib).

"Our study showed that users of common painkillers, known as NSAIDs, have a lower risk of the three major types of skin cancer, [including] malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma," said study lead author, Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir, at the department of clinical epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark.

"The greatest effect," she noted, "was found for squamous cell carcinomas and malignant melanoma, especially when [these painkillers were] taken frequently and over a long time period."

The study appears in the May 29 online issue of the journal Cancer.

The authors noted that prior work supported the notion that NSAIDs may offer some measure of protection against cancer (most notably colorectal cancer), by specifically impeding the cancer-causing activities of COX-2 (cyclooxygenase) enzymes.

However, the team suggested that past investigations into how NSAIDs may affect skin cancer risk, in particular, had key design problems that undercut efforts to nail down any NSAID-skin cancer connection.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed prescription databases and health information registries including the Danish Cancer Registry and the Danish Civil Registration System.

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