Harvard Women's Health Watch

Research We're Watching: Aspirin may lower melanoma risk

In addition to its benefits in women with or at risk for heart disease, aspirin might reduce the risk of melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—according to research published online this March in the journal Cancer. The study included nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 79, who were enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative study. Researchers followed the women for an average of 12 years, controlling for factors that can increase skin cancer risk, including sunscreen use, tanning practices, and differences in skin pigment. Women who took aspirin had a 21% lower melanoma risk compared with women who didn't take aspirin. The longer participants took aspirin, the lower their melanoma risk dropped. The authors say aspirin works by reducing inflammation, which can influence cancer development. However, it's important to note that aspirin can also contribute to gastrointestinal bleeding. As of now, aspirin is not recommended solely for cancer prevention, but if you are already taking aspirin for your heart, you may also be reducing your risk for melanoma. Always use aspirin with caution, following your doctor's advice.

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