A new Danish study says that common painkillers might help protect people against skin cancer. Researchers say people who take anti-inflammatory, nonsteroidial painkillers on a regular basis, such as ibuprofen and aspirin were less apt to develop malignant melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma compared to others who rarely took the medications. People who would benefit the most were those who took higher doses and for long periods of time, said researchers.
The painkillers work by inhibiting certain enzymes that cause the inflammation. Studies done previously showed that there were elevated levels of the enzymes in skin cancer and they were involved in important parts of the development of the cancer including stimulation of blood vessel growth, suppression of the person’s immune system and cell death.
The study was focused on three types of cancer of the skin – malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. The study involved research of 3,200 malignant melanoma cases, 2,000 squamous cell carcinoma cases and 1,300 basal cell cases. They were compared to information such as prescription data of over 179,000 patients who never developed skin cancer.
Patients with over two prescriptions for NSAIDs had a 15% less risk of squamous cell carcinoma and 13% less of a risk of malignant melanoma than those with no prescriptions or fewer than two prescriptions.
The effect of taking the prescriptions was much stronger among those who had taken the medications for over seven years in high intensity. The minimal dosage daily or weekly needed to see the affects was not determined.