According to results recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may prevent the development of actinic keratosis and squamous cell cancers of the skin.
Actinic keratosis refers to a condition of precancerous areas or spots that develop on the skin, particularly among individuals who have had extensive sun exposure. Actinic keratosis has the potential to turn into a squamous cell skin cancer.
Squamous cell cancers of the skin are the second most common type of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. Fortunately, squamous cell cancers of the skin are easily removed by surgery and do not tend to spread, unless they become very advanced. However, due to their prevalence, researchers are evaluating ways to prevent the cancers altogether.
NSAIDs are drugs that are used to reduce inflammation and therefore pain. Aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs are readily used by a large portion of individuals. Recent research has indicated that regular use of NSAIDs may protect against some cancers; this remains an area active of investigation with several ongoing studies.
Researchers form Australia recently conducted a study to evaluate a possible association between NSAID use and squamous cell skin cancer among 1,621 sun-exposed individuals. Results indicated that individuals who regularly used NSAIDs had lower risks of cancer:
- Individuals who took NSAIDs more than eight times per week for more than a year or who had taken full-dose NSAIDs two or more times per week for more than five years had a significant reduction in the risk of squamous cell cancer.
- Individuals who used NSAIDs two or more times per week had a 48% reduction in the occurrence of actinic keratosis compared to individuals who did not regularly use NSAIDs.
- Individuals who had the highest NSAID use had the lowest incidence of actinic keratosis.
The researchers concluded that regular NSAID use may prevent or reduce the risk of developing squamous cell skin cancers or actinic keratosis among sun-exposed individuals. Further study is necessary to confirm these findings. Prior to taking NSAIDs, patients should always speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of NSAID use.
Reference: Butler GJ, Neale R, Green AC, et al. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the risk of actinic keratoses and squamous cell cancers of the skin. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.2005;53:966-972.