Scientists found those who regularly took painkillers and especially aspirin over five years cut their melanoma risk by 40 per cent.
A team led by Dr Clara Curiel-Lewandrowski of Harvard Medical School, analysed and compared the medical records of 1,000 people and asked them to recall their use of painkillers.
Of these 400 had been diagnosed with melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer. The researchers found that people without cancer had a longer history of taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDS) like aspirin.
Also more than 40 per cent of people who were cancer-free said they’d been taking NSAIDs at least once per week for more than five years. This compared to 28 per cent of those who developed melanoma. Overall, regular use of the painkillers for more than five years reduced the risk of developing cancer by more than 40 per cent.
‘Our data at least supports the hypothesis that long-term steady aspirin use has an effect,’ study co-author Dr Robert Stern told MSNBC.
The latest study appears in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
However, Dr Maryam Asgari, from the University of California San Francisco, said she was not convinced by the findings. She published a larger study in 2008 that failed to find a link between taking aspirin and skin cancer.
Dr Asgari’s research analysed data from nearly 64,000 people who were melanoma-free at the beginning of the investigation, then followed them for a few years to see who developed the disease. She found no evidence that taking NSAIDs had any effect on risk of developing the deadly skin cancer.
Dr Asgari warned that people should not conclude that popping a few painkillers will reduce their risk of skin cancer. ‘I wouldn’t recommend (taking NSAIDs to reduce melanoma) just based on this’, she said. She added that painkillers including aspirin and ibuprofen have side effects such as stomach bleeding.
People with a family history of melanoma are better off wearing sunscreen and getting regular skin checks from a dermatologist, she said.