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Can Daily Aspirin Lower Melanoma Risk in Women?

Large study found up to 30 percent reduced odds of developing melanoma
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

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 noted.

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 preferences.

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 cautioned.

"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 said.

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 added.

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 Cancer.

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.

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