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

he team focused on diagnostic and death records concerning nearly 2,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma, about 13,300 cases of basal cell carcinoma and nearly 3,250 cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed between 1991 and 2009 when the patients were at least 20 years old.

In turn, prescription histories were gathered for both the cancer patient group and almost 179,000 healthy Danes. Records covered the use of both low- and high-dose aspirin (ranging from 75 milligrams to 500 milligrams), so-called "nonselective" NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen [Advil] and naproxen [Aleve]), and both older and newer types of COX-2 inhibitors. Researchers noted the number of prescriptions issued per patient and their length of use, with short-term use defined as fewer than seven years.

The result: The relative risk for squamous cell carcinoma was found to have dropped by 15 percent among those Danes who had filled more than two NSAID prescriptions, compared to those who had filled two or less.

Similarly, malignant melanoma risk fell by nearly as much (13 percent) among those filling more than two NSAID prescriptions.

However, the same dynamic was generally not seen with regards to basal cell carcinoma. But taking NSAIDs for long periods of time, and at relatively high doses, was associated with a reduced risk (between 15 and 21 percent), specifically for basal cell cases that manifested in skin regions that typically experience relatively little sun exposure (areas other than the neck or head).

On that front, long-term users and those who took NSAIDs at relatively higher doses appeared to benefit from the strongest protective effect, suggesting that when it comes to skin cancer risk reduction, more NSAID use is better.

The researchers pointed out that the NSAID-cancer connection could be affected by a range of lifestyle factors they did not account for, such as an individual's specific skin type or sun exposure patterns.

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