Might an aspirin a day cut cancer risk?


Published: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.

Could an aspirin a day keep the melanoma away? A study published in the journal “Cancer” suggests this is possible.

The study, performed by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, suggests there could be a correlation between keeping a daily aspirin regimen and the reduced risk of developing melanoma.

Lacy Hamilton, a third-year public relations and political science double-major at the University of Florida, said this development is exciting news for her.

“My grandpa and dad both had skin cancer,” Hamilton said. “I even had a mole on my back that wasn’t melanoma but could turn into cancer, and I had it removed.”

The study drew its data from the Women’s Health Initiative. The WHI contains a broad demographic of U.S. women between the ages of 50 and 79 who volunteer information about their daily lives, including diet, activity, sun exposure, history and medication. The study focused its results to about 60,000 white women, due to less pigment in skin being a risk for melanoma, according to a press release provided by Stanford University.

According to Dr. Jean Tang, assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford and senior author of the study, the WHI was developed about 10 years ago and before the study began, which means the researchers didn’t have to start their observation from scratch.

The study found that women who kept a daily aspirin regimen decreased their risk of developing melanoma by about 21 percent. The study also found that risk reduction was increased over time, reaching as much as a 30 percent risk reduction at five years or more, according to the press release.

Tang said the study does not suggest a correlation with general non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because they are not used as often as aspirin, which is a type of anti-inflammatory drug.

Even with this evidence, Tang said the study was only observational. Tang said the next step in the process is to begin clinical trials.

“Clinical trials show you the variables that are manipulated and what they change,” Tang said. “We do observational studies first to see if, ‘Gosh, is there a relationship or a risk reduction?’ There’s no positives.”

This is not the only study to suggest a correlation between aspirin and cancer risk. In fact, this study was inspired by prior studies and the increasing development of melanoma in young women in the U.S., Tang said.

Hamilton looks at the correlation of aspirin and cutting your risk of cancer as a blessing.

“It’s definitely exciting since I’ve grown up in Florida my whole life,” Hamilton said. “Being in the sun all the time, and it obviously runs in my family — it’ll be great to not be so afraid of getting it.”

Cristina Mendez, a first-year telecommunication major at UF, also feels hopeful about the possible development.

“Living in Florida, I’m definitely always thinking about the possibility of getting melanoma,” Mendez said. “I use sunscreen and wear a hat outside sometimes, but aspirin is accessible and cheap, so it’s definitely something I’d use.”

Tang is not quite ready to prescribe daily aspirin regimes to all women worried about developing skin cancer, saying correlation does not necessarily equal causation.

“The evidence of using sunscreen and reducing sun exposure is much stronger,” Tang said.

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