A review of studies has found that aspirin and other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken by mouth may reduce the risk for squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma, caused by exposure to ultraviolet light over a lifetime, is the second most common form of skin cancer, after basal cell carcinoma. If found early, it’s almost always curable. If left untreated it can be disfiguring or deadly. A topical Nsaid, diclofenac (brand name Voltaren and others), is used to treat actinic keratoses, a type of lesion that can develop into skin cancer if not treated.

Writing in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers analyzed data from 9 various studies. Some used aspirin and Nsaids, some aspirin or non-aspirin Nsaids alone. Over all, use of Nsaids reduced the risk for squamous cell skin cancer by 18%. Using aspirin alone also reduced the risk, however the reduction was not statistically significant.

“These data are preliminary,” said co-author, Catherine M. Olsen, a researcher at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia. “There have to be clinical trials to see if these drugs are useful.” For now, she said, “the best way to prevent skin cancer is to reduce sun exposure.”


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