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An Aspirin a Day May Reduce Melanoma Risk by Up to 30 Percent

Update Date: Mar 11, 2013 12:28 PM EDT

Could an aspirin a day keep the doctor away? Researchers aren't exactly sure yet, but a recent study suggests a link between reduced incidence of melanoma and the tablet. This is only the latest benefit for the wonder pill, which has been previously linked to protection against cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, ovary, prostate and stomach.

According to Health Canal, the study was conducted by researchers from Stanford University. They used data from the Women's Health Initiative to examine about 60,000 post-menopausal Caucasian women. The study looked at the effect of the pill on Caucasian women because people with less skin pigment are considered to have a higher risk for melanoma.

The study found that women who took aspirin on a regular basis were 21 percent less likely to suffer from melanoma. The benefit also appeared to increase with time: while women who took the pill for a year saw an 11 percent reduction in risk for melanoma, women who took the pill for five years or more could seek as much as a 30 percent reduction in risk for the deadliest skin cancer.

Some researchers believe that the link exists because aspirin clamps down on a gene called Cox-2 that controls inflammation, NPR reports. However, others suggest that aspirin lowers the risk of certain types of cancer by preventing the creation of some platelets, a blood cell associated with clotting. This would explain why that link does not exist for women who took non-aspirin NSAIDs, which do not inhibit the body's use of platelets like aspirin can.

Still, researchers are stopping short of declaring that everyone should take aspirin to prevent melanoma. The study was conducted through self-reports, where women themselves said how many hours they spent in the sun, how often they took aspirin and so on. The gold standard would be to give women aspirin or a placebo, and track them for a decade, though that type of study would not be feasible.

In addition, aspirin is a drug - meaning that there are side effects that can be severe, like ulcers and bleeding.

Regardless, for people who are at high risk for melanoma, the pill may be a handy way to reduce risk. People considered to be high risk for the skin cancer are people who have previously had skin cancer and people who burn easily and do not tan.

The study was published in the journal Cancer.

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