Aspirin is not just for headaches any more. A new study suggests that women who take aspirin regularly are less likely to develop melanoma, a potentially life-threatening form of skin cancer.
The study included nearly 60,000 volunteers in the Women’s Health Initiative. They were at least 50 but under 79 years of age when the study started, and it lasted for 12 years. The volunteers answered questions about diet, medication and lifestyle when the study began, and the answers were analyzed in light of who developed melanoma.
Women who took a standard dose of aspirin at least twice weekly were 21 percent less likely to get this diagnosis. The longer they used the pain reliever, the stronger the protective effect. Other medicines such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen were not associated with a reduced risk of melanoma.
Aspirin use has already been linked to a lower likelihood of many other cancers, including those of the breast, lung, colon, esophagus and stomach. This study did not prove that aspirin prevents melanoma because proof would require an expensive, large randomized trial. Nonetheless, the evidence is highly suggestive and confirms an anti-cancer effect seen in dozens of other studies.