Men who take aspirin daily may have double the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, according to a study. Published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the study found that women, however, were not at an increased risk of melanoma due to aspirin use. “Given the widespread use of aspirin and the potential clinical impact of the link to melanoma, patients and health care providers need to be aware of the possibility of increased risk for men,” said Beatrice Nardone, an assistant professor at Northwestern University in the US. Nardone suggested increasing patient education about sun exposure, avoiding tanning beds and getting skin checks by a dermatologist, particularly for individuals who are already at high risk for skin cancers. “This does not mean men should stop aspirin therapy to lower the risk of heart attack,” she said.
The finding is surprising because aspirin is reported to reduce risk of gastric, colon, prostate and breast cancer, Nordone said. One reason men may be more vulnerable could be related to males (human and animal species) expressing a lower amount of protective enzymes, like superoxide dismutase and catalase, compared to females, she said.
“These lower levels of protective enzymes suggest that a higher level of resulting oxidative cellular damage in men might contribute to the possibility of developing melanoma,” said Nardone. The study collected medical record data comprising almost 200,000 patients who were aspirin-exposed or aspirin-unexposed (control group), aged 18-89, with no prior history of melanoma and with a follow-up time of at least five years.
For the aspirin-exposed patient population, the study included only patients who had at least one year of once-daily aspirin exposure at a dose of 81 or 325mg occurring between January 2005 and December 2006 in order to allow for at least five years of follow-up data to detect if melanoma occurred over time.
Out of a total of 195,140 patients, 1,187 were aspirin exposed. Of these 1,187 patients, 26 (2.19 per cent) (both men and women) had a subsequent diagnosis for melanoma compared to 1,676 (0.86 per cent) in aspirin-unexposed (men and women) patients. Men exposed to aspirin had almost twice the risk for diagnosis of melanoma compared to men in the same population who were not exposed to aspirin, researchers said.