It seems like there’s a new use discovered for aspirin all the time. The “Wonder Drug,” as it’s known, is derived from salicylate which can be found in willow trees and other plants. There’s evidence of the willow tree being used for treating pain, fever, and inflammation as early as 3000 BC. In much more recent history, aspirin has been found to be useful for lowering a person’s chance of experiencing heart attack and stroke. In fact, doctors recommend those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes adhere to a daily aspirin regimen in order to promote their heart health, and aspirin is administered to patients as soon as they show signs of a heart attack in order to prevent further damage to the heart. Studies have also shown aspirin to be effective in lowering the risk and preventing the recurrence of many cancers, including colon, breast, esophagus, stomach, prostate, bladder and ovary. Now, research suggests one more use for aspirin: skin cancer prevention.
The study featured in the March issue of the journal Cancer looked at 60,000 post-menopausal Caucasian women over a 12 year period. Researchers found that the women who took aspirin a few times a week had a 20 percent lower chance of developing melanoma than women who didn’t take aspirin regularly. The longer the women were on the aspirin regimen, the lower their skin cancer risk. In fact, women who took aspirin for five years or more had a 30 percent lower risk of skin cancer.
Researchers don’t know why aspirin may have a cancer-fighting effect – whether it’s the anti-inflammatory properties, the inhibiting of platelets in the blood, or something else. And while these study results are encouraging, the study did not rule out factors other than aspirin that could have led to the participants’ lowered cancer risk. It’s also important to keep in mind that aspirin is associated with some serious side-effects, including stomach irritation, vomiting, nausea, worsened asthma symptoms, inflammation of the stomach, bruising, and even stomach bleeding.
If you’re at an increased risk for melanoma (someone who’s fair, has a family history, or has had skin cancer in the past), talk to your dermatologist about whether an aspirin regimen is right for you. And as always, be sure to wear an SPF of at least 15 and avoid indoor tanning.
Sources: npr.org, medicalnewstoday.com, and time.com