We all take aspirin for different reasons: for a headache, for cramps, to prevent heart attacks. However, the Women’s Health Initiative recently published a study that suggests that taking aspirin is associated with a lower risk of melanoma.
After following 60,000 Caucasian women between the ages of 50 and 79 over a period of nearly 12 years, the researchers noticed those who reported taking aspirin at least twice a week showed a 21% lower risk of melanoma than the women who didn’t take aspirin at all. “The longer they stayed on aspirin, the lower the risk,” the researchers noted. In fact, women who used aspirin for five or more years had a 30% lower melanoma risk than women who did not use aspirin.
“Aspirin works by reducing inflammation and this may be why using aspirin may lower your risk of developing melanoma,” said Dr. Jean Tang, one of the lead researchers. Other pain medications, such as acetaminophen, did not lower women’s melanoma risk.
Reducing inflammation is one of several proposed mechanisms for cancer prevention. Aspirin reduces inflammation by blocking COX-2, an enzyme that induces the body’s inflammatory response by increasing levels of a chemical called prostaglandins. Aspirin has also been shown to promote apoptosis in melanoma cells by promoting a few cancer-fighting tumor-suppressor genes. Other studies suggest that aspirin lowers levels of IL-6, an inflammatory chemical that has also been associated with a higher risk for melanoma.
However, don’t start taking aspirin to prevent melanoma just yet. More research needs to be done to further prove this connection, as Tang notes. “The results of the research suggest that there should be another study that directly tests whether aspirin can be taken to prevent melanoma.”
However, to guard against heart attacks, The Dr. Oz Show typically recommends taking half a regular aspirin or two baby aspirins (162 milligrams total) in the evening if you’re a man over 35 or a woman over 40. Take it with lots of water! Try drinking a half glass of warm water before and after taking the aspirin. It will help dissolve the aspirin faster and decrease the chances of developing stomach irritations in the long-term. Learn more about aspirin.