Could common painkillers enhance the fight against skin cancer?

29 May 2012

Members of the public may soon be able to better fight off the effects of skin cancer with the assistance of commonly administered painkillers.

Sigrun Alba Johannesdottir, from Denmark's Aarhus University Hospital, has led a team of scientists to see how nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can help in the battle against the life-threatening disease.

The study group analysed medical records from northern Denmark which stretched between 1991 and 2009 and involved 1,974 diagnoses of squamous cell carcinoma, 13,316 cases of basal cell carcinoma and 3,242 diagnoses of malignant melanoma.

When comparing this data with 178,655 individuals without skin cancer, the researchers found that those who filled more than two prescriptions for NSAIDs were 15 per cent less likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than those with two or fewer fillings.

There was also a 13 per cent drop in the risk of suffering from malignant melanoma for those who filled over two prescriptions for NSAIDs.

While basal cell carcinoma did not have much effect when NSAIDs were prescribed, there was a reduced risk of the disease developing on less exposed sites of the body if the medication was administered.

Skin cancer is still a major health problem across the UK, with Cancer Research UK highlighting that 2,749 people in the country died from the disease in 2010 alone.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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