MONDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- Older women who take an
aspirin regularly may be lowering their risk of developing the
deadly skin cancer melanoma, a new study suggests.
And the longer postmenopausal women take aspirin, the more
melanoma risk appears to diminish.
The effect is only seen with aspirin, not with other pain
relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), the researchers
For the study, the research team collected data on nearly 60,000
white women who were part of the Women's Health Initiative, a
long-term national study. The women, aged between 50 and 79, were
asked about what medications they took and other lifestyle
Over 12 years of follow-up, the investigators found that women
who took aspirin had a 21 percent lower risk of developing melanoma
compared to women who didn't take aspirin.
But it's too soon to make firm conclusions, a researcher
"Aspirin could be potentially used to prevent melanoma, but a clinical trial is needed," said lead author Dr. Jean Tang, an assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif.
This type of population-based study can only show an association
between aspirin and the reduced risk for melanoma, not that aspirin
actually helps prevent it.
Tang doesn't believe women should start taking aspirin solely to
try to prevent melanoma. "It's too early to say this," she
It is possible that aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties might
be responsible for lowering the risk of melanoma, Tang suggested.
"Aspirin may also promote cell death of melanoma cells," she
Whether a protective effect also occurs in men is not known,
said Tang, who plans to look at that in her next study.
The new report was published in the March 11 online edition of
The study found that women who took aspirin for at least five
years had their melanoma risk drop by 30 percent, compared to women
who didn't take aspirin.
To try to isolate the effect of aspirin on melanoma, Tang's
group accounted for other factors such as skin tone, tanning and
use of sunscreen.
Each year in the United States there are nearly 77,000 new cases
of melanoma and more than 9,000 deaths from it, according to the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
One expert doesn't see any problem taking aspirin to prevent
melanoma, especially for people with a family history of the
Prolonged use of aspirin is not without risks, including stomach
bleeding, but the benefits of preventing melanoma outweigh the risk
for vulnerable people, said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She praised the new
"I think it's fantastic. It's really a remarkable study," Green said.
"If you have a family history of melanoma, I don't see any downside of taking aspirin for this," she said. "I would urge my patients who have a family history of melanoma to take aspirin based on this study."
To learn more about melanoma, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.
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