New research has shown that taking basic painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, could help to prevent skin cancer.
Danish scientists studied the medical files of 200,000 patients between 1991 and 2009 and recorded how many people suffered from skin cancer.
They found that individuals who filled more than two prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were 15 per cent less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.
They were also 13 per cent less likely to develop malignant melanoma – the most deadly skin cancer.
The effects were especially evident when the drugs were taken for seven or more years.
The researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Cancer, believe painkillers prevent the production of enzymes that promote cancer growth.
Terry Slevin, chair of the Cancer Council Australia’s Skin Cancer Committee, says the study is interesting but it doesn’t necessarily apply to Australia.
“Incidence of melanoma in Australia is double the rate experienced in Denmark and UV exposure is more than double,” he says.
The study does not take into account UV exposure, so Slevin says Australians are best to stick to the age-old message: slip, slop, slap, seek, slide.
“The major proven vehicle for reducing skin cancer risk in Australia is the reduction of UV exposure, particularly during high UV times of the day and year,” Slevin says.
There are also risks of stomach bleeding associated with taking certain types of painkillers.
“A more precise quantification of the potential benefits of aspirin and ibuprofen use needs to be assessed against potential harms,” Slevin says. “Further study of the potential benefit and potential harms of aspirin and ibuprofen in skin cancer prevention might be warranted in Australian circumstances.”
More than 430,000 Australians are treated for skin cancer and 1850 people die from skin cancer each year. It is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia.