An Aspirin a Day Keeps Melanoma Away

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Hold on, another benefit of daily aspirin? The benefit of aspirin against stroke and heart disease in folks with risk factors is well known, but so are the risks. Aspirin carries the well-known downside of gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers. If you’re struggling to decide whether or not to take a daily aspirin, there is one more notch in the “pro” column

Women who used aspirin regularly had a reduced risk of developing melanoma. That reduced risk grew over time with aspirin use. During 12 years of follow up, women who had been taking aspirin regularly for less than a year had roughly an 11% reduction in melanoma, compared with aspirin non-users. Those who had been using aspirin regularly for 1 – 4 years had a 20% risk reduction. And women on aspirin for 5 years or longer at enrollment were 30% less likely to develop melanoma than non-users. Intriguing right?

Why would aspirin help prevent melanoma? We don’t really know, but other anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs like Motrin and ibuprofen) have been shown to decrease the risk of breast, colorectal, and gastric cancer. The specific way NSAIDS and aspirin may be of benefit is the inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is pro-inflammatory.

These results come at a time where we have seen an increase in the number of melanoma cases in young Caucasian women (believed to be from tanning beds). So, an aspirin a day . . .

Dr O.

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