For years, doctors have been prescribing a daily dose aspirin to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. More recently aspirin has proven effective in lowering the risk of colon cancer. A new study from researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute suggests that long-term aspirin use may also significantly lower the risk of cutaneous melanoma (CM), the most deadly form of skin cancer.
“The incidence of cutaneous melanoma continues to climb faster than other common cancers,” said first author Robert Stern, MD, Chief of Dermatology. “Prevention strategies other than sunscreen and reduced sun exposure may help reduce this incidence.”
Stern’s team analyzed data to assess cutaneous melanoma risk in association with the long-term use of lipid-lowering agents (LLAs), or statins, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), or aspirin. The results published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology show while the use of statins shows no significant protective benefit, the “continuous use of ASA for five years or more reduces the CM risk by almost half.”
In total, 400 melanoma patients participated in the study. Information collected from the melanoma patients was compared with a 600 person control group. The groups were “matched for age, gender, and community.” They were asked about previous and current medication use and risk factors for melanoma such as sun exposure history and ease of sun burning.
“Our data supports the idea that, in particular, the long-term use of aspirin has a protective effect,” said Stern. “It’s possible that long-term use of non-ASA NSAIDs could also reduce risk, but because non-ASA NSAID’s like ibuprofen and naproxen are generally taken with less regularity than aspirin, the power to detect a significant association is limited. This study adds another health benefit for the regular use of aspirin in many populations, especially those for whom aspirin is likely to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.”
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org.
BIDMC Contact: Kelly Lawman