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Common Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Associated With Decreased Risk of Skin Cancer

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 12 Jun 2012
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A new study has found an association linking the use of various nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with a decreased risk of two major types of skin cancer.

Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital (Aarhus, Denmark) undertook a retrospective, population-based case-control study of patients in Northern Denmark to examine the association between use of NSAIDs--including aspirin, ibuprofin, and naproxen--and the risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and malignant melanoma (MM). Analysis of medical records from northern Denmark from 1991 through 2009 identified 1,974 diagnoses of SSC, 13,316 diagnoses of BCC, and 3,242 diagnoses of MM. Drug use information (including prescription data) from these patients was compared with information from 178,655 individuals without skin cancer.

Statistical analyses indicated that individuals who filled more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs had a 15% decreased risk for developing SCC and a 13% decreased risk for developing MM than those who filled two or fewer prescriptions for the medications, especially when the drugs were taken for seven or more years or taken at high intensity. Taking NSAIDs did not seem to reduce the risk of developing BCC in general, although there was a 15% and 21% reduced risk of developing BCC on less-exposed sites (body areas other than the head and neck) when the drugs were taken long term or at high intensity, respectively.

The main SCC and MM risk-reducers in the study were nonselective NSAIDs and older COX-2 inhibitors (diclofenac, etodolac, and meloxicam). NSAIDs are thought to help prevent the development of cancer by inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which are known to be involved in carcinogenesis.

“We hope that the potential cancer-protective effect of NSAIDs will inspire more research on skin cancer prevention,” said first author Sigrún Alba Jóhannesdóttir, BSc, of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital; “Also, [this] effect should be taken into account when discussing benefits and harms of NSAID use.”

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Aarhus University Hospital



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