NSAIDs may prevent skin cancer, study suggests

June 12, 2012

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may prevent the development of skin cancer, according to a new study, published online first in the journal Cancer on May 29.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may prevent the development of skin cancer, according to a new study, published online first in the journal Cancer on May 29.

The study was led by Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir BSc, with the department of clinical epidemiology at Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark.

Utilizing the Denmark Cancer Registry (DCR) and other Denmark national databases, the researchers reviewed all cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and malignant melanoma (MM), from 1991 through 2009. Patients’ use of aspirin, other non-selective NSAIDs, and selective COX-2 inhibitors was ascertained through a prescription database.

“We observed that NSAIDs overall….were associated with a decreased risk of skin cancer, particularly SCC and MM. The risk reduction was greatest among long-term and high-intensity users, suggesting a cumulative and dose-dependent, protective effect,” the researchers wrote.

Patients who used more than 2 NSAIDs overall, compared to those who did not use them at all, had a 15% decreased relative risk of SCC and a 13% lower risk of melanoma. In the researchers’ separate analysis of patients taking acetaminophen, there was a 32% reduction in the risk of BCC at sites other than the head and neck.

“Given the high skin cancer incidence and the frequent use of NSAIDs, a preventive effective of these agents may have important health implications,” the researchers wrote. However, the study was limited by the fact that cancer cases were obtained through the DCR, which only captures an estimated 60% of SCC and BCC cases.