Beyond its undoubted role against headache and fever, aspirin continues to expand its list of benefits. Recent research pointed a protective effect against breast cancer, colon and stomach, and now a new study says that reduces the risk of melanoma.

For now, only been observed in post-menopausal women. The authors of this study analyzed data from a study (‘Health Initiative Women’) made more than 59,000 women between 50 and 79 years for 12 years. Among other questions, they were asked about medications they ate and found that those taking low-dose aspirin for long time had a 21% lower risk of developing melanoma than those who did not eat this pill. If their use is extended to five years or more, the protection increased to 30%.

“It is an interesting hypothesis that was first associated the use of aspirin with a reduced risk of developing melanoma in postmenopausal women,” says Susana Puig, Dermatology Service, Hospital Clínic (Barcelona), commenting on this study observational. Although it has been shown in a very specific population, the authors point out, because of this finding, now there may be a clinical trial to test whether taking aspirin prevents melanoma in the general population.

Last year a team of researchers conducted a study at the University Hospital of Aarhus (Denmark) which also highlighted the protective effect of aspirin against some tumors of the skin, however, did not take into account other risk factors such as sun exposure.

A reasonable explanation

According to the lead author of the research, published in the journal ‘Cancer’, the explanation of this benefit may be related to the anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin. To prevent inflammation, says Dr. Puig, “prevents the mutagenic effect induced by oxidative stress associated with inflammation characteristic of melanoma.”

The next step now is that future work revalidate the results, taking into account, as well as the authors assume that this study has some limitations. Although it took into account the different pigmentation of the skin, tanning practices, use of sunscreen and other risk factors for melanoma, patients who took aspirin had characteristics different from those who did not in terms of age, level of education, body mass index and levels of vitamin D. As clarifies the Spanish specialist, “is well known that high levels of vitamin D protect against melanoma” and it just so happens that “women who took aspirin had higher these levels.”   For other factors that protect against melanoma, a scientific paper, which also just published in the journal Nature Genetic ‘and participating in Dr. Puig, associates a genetic variant in the FTO gene (gene linked to obesity ) with the risk of melanoma, that is, the smaller is the body mass index greater protection against this skin cancer.   Indeed, the previous study showed that “women who took aspirin also had a lower body mass index,” says Puig. These features should be analyzed to verify the actual effect of aspirin on the risk of developing melanoma.