Every American has taken some type of pain drug at some point. Be it an aspirin or acetaminophen for a headache, or a prescription pain medication for surgery or a broken bone. New research published in the May 29 edition of the journal Cancer is showing that some of these pain drugs may actually lower your skin cancer risk. Not all pain drugs do this; it is those in the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs category that are being studied.
* The research is very much preliminary, so it's no clear what drugs for which patients should be used. NSAIDs carry their own set of risks and are not safe for everyone.
* The research thus far has been conducted in Denmark. The researchers involved at Aarhus University Hospital analyzed 19 years worth of skin cancer records. The three types of skin cancer they were looking at include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
* Those who have fully used more than two prescriptions of this type of drug were found to reduce their risk of malignant melanoma by 13 percent and squamous cell carcinoma by 15 percent, according to Science Daily. A decreased risk in basal carcinoma was not found, except that there could be a smaller risk in this type of skin cancer on areas of the body other than the head or neck.
* The average time and frequency in this study was significant use for a minimum of seven years. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are relatively safe when used short-term. The majority of risks start when these drugs are used for a long period of time. Kidney failure, bleeding, gastric ulcers and liver dysfunction are all possible with this type of drug and can occur whether the drug is being used short or long-term. Because of the risks, researchers caution people to not start using these drugs simply to decrease cancer risk.
* It is thought that these drugs help to lower skin cancer risk because they suppress Cox-1 and Cox-2 enzyme activity. These enzymes play a role in inflammation and blood vessels forming, two things that are necessary for cancer to form and grow.
* No one should start a regular regimen of NSAIDs without first talking to their doctor. Certain pre-existing conditions and medications will adversely interact with this type of drug. It is important to know whether or not NSAIDs are safe, and even necessary, before taking them.
R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen began her career in health care in 2002, when she began nursing school. She is now a full-time medical writer with expertise in a variety of health fields, specifically trauma, public health, cancer, infectious disease, women's health, and research. She combines her education, experience, and passion for health and medicine to influence her writing.