Can Aspirin Reduce the Risk of Melanoma Among Postmenopausal White Women?

Tanning beds substantially raise risks of skin...
Tanning beds substantially raise risks of skin cancer, including melanoma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While previous studies demonstrated no reduction in melanoma skin cancer risk associated with aspirin use. Now comes an intriguing report that aspirin may reduce the probability of melanoma among postmenopausal Caucasian women.

The study: The authors looked at data from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI OS). Half of the patients were followed for over 12 years.

The results: The melanoma incident rate was 21% lower among aspirin users compared to those taking non-aspirin NSAIDs or not taking NSAIDs. Among women taking aspirin for 5 or more years, the melanoma risk was 30% lower. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) had no such benefit.

Limitations of the study: Medication use was self-reported. There was no information about risk factors such as hair and eye color. (The study did include information on skin type, sun exposure and sun protection habits) The study is large, has long follow-up, and a large number of confirmed melanomas.

My take: The study is provocative. But do these observations hold true for per- and perimenopausal women, other ethnic groups? Men? And what about the downsides of aspirin, including bleeding from the gut? We also known that low-dose aspirin can lower the risk of colorectal cancer among patients (those with something known as Lynch syndrome) at high risk for the disease. And it can lower the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. For me, unless my patient has a reason not to take it, I think it is not unreasonable to incorporate a baby aspirin into your daily routine, especially if you are over the age of 50. For you, make sure you check in with your primary care provider before making the decision.

And you know the rest: Sunscreen (don’t forget to re-apply), hats, sunglasses, no tanning beds, and limit the time in the sun. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. And have a great day!

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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